Enrollment in HIP fitness classes has increased by over 50% since 2010. BeWell asked Jerrie Thurman, fitness program manager for the Health Improvement Program (HIP), to tell us about what’s driving the dramatic increase.
Tell us about the changes you’ve seen in enrollment ...
In 2010, we had approximately 5,200 fitness classes taken by participants. This year we are on pace to have approximately 8,300 classes taken by participants. While a single participant can take more than one class, these numbers tell us that an increasing number of Stanford employees are taking advantage of the opportunity to exercise at work.
Why do you think participation taken off this year?
A big factor driving our growth is the culture of wellness spreading throughout the university. Participants hear about wellness opportunities at the BeWell screening and advising sessions. HIP programs teach people how to make sustainable behavior changes. Employees have opportunities to try a healthy lunch at the dining halls or a fitness class at BeWell events.
Another very important driver is the increasing tendency of managers to encourage their employees to be more active and make lifestyle changes.
What are the most popular fitness activities?
I suppose it depends on who you ask. Employees tell me they like all of the HIP classes, but by far the largest number of classes we offer are in the yoga or yoga/pilates categories. Employees want to relax and unwind at the beginning, middle and end of the day — and yoga is a wonderful way to do that.
The strength training, boot camp, and body sculpting classes are also popular, as are the swimming and aqua fitness classes. And finally, our meditation, tai chi and other martial arts classes are popular with those that want to learn more about the mind/body connection.
Was the reduced $20 BeWell class fee helpful?
Certainly. The reduced cost of classes helps mitigate the financial barrier which keeps some employees from taking group fitness classes that are so important for becoming or remaining physically active. Previously, employees had to pay about $90-100 for a 10-week session of classes. After the reduced fee was introduced, enrollment doubled.
Is there a maximum of $20 classes a person can take?
Yes. You can take two 10-week sessions of classes per quarter through HIP or the PE and Recreation Program. For example, you may sign up for one 10-week session of boot camp classes and one 10-week session of yoga classes. Employees can certainly take more class sessions than two per quarter, but beyond two the full price of the class is charged.
Where do you find your instructors and what are their qualifications?
I get referrals from current HIP instructors, and from faculty/staff who suggest classes they want to see included in the HIP schedule. Prior to teaching for HIP, I make sure that they have the necessary certifications to teach a safe class, and that their teaching style will be a good fit with our program. Our instructors emulate the HIP philosophy of gradual change, and providing modifications to participants that accommodate various physical limitations/fitness levels. And, they do it in a way that makes sure that participants don't feel "stupid" doing the modified movements. They're aware that some participants may feel like they don't fit in because of their shape and/or level of fitness, so they try to make it "safe" for them to participate.
The breadth and depth of the qualifications of the HIP instructors is amazing! We have physical therapists, a Feldenkrais™ Practitioner, current or former professional dancers, and Masters of tai chi and Shaolin kung fu. The meditation, yoga and pilates instructors have completed extensive trainings, and most of the HIP instructors are multi-certified to teach various types of group fitness classes. And, quite a few of them have been teaching with HIP for over ten years.
Do employees keep taking HIP classes once they get started?
Yes. I know some employees who have been taking HIP classes for as long or longer than I have been managing and teaching classes for HIP, which is 20 years now. Some employees like to take the same class every quarter, while others like to try a variety of classes. But they all say that they love the instructors, and they appreciate having the classes near or at their worksite and being able to pay a reduced cost for the classes.
Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Dorothy Ryan