Students who eat healthier and increase their fitness this fall may be rewarded by the University for their healthy behaviors.

The program, called the Active U Autumn challenge, allows participants to set fitness and health goals and win prizes if they meet their goals. MHealthy has offered the Active U challenge for faculty, staff, graduate students and retired University employees during recent winter terms, but now, MHealthy is also sponsoring Active U Autumn for undergraduate students. The program, which is also being sponsored by University Health Service and Rackham Graduate School, will debut on Oct. 11 and run through Nov. 21.

After registering online, participants determine their health and fitness targets and keep a log for six weeks. If they reach their goals, they can enter in a drawing for prizes such as iPads, treadmills, elliptical machines, bikes, gym memberships and Wii Fit game systems.

According to Katherine Edgren, the health promotion and community relations director at UHS, more than 12,000 University community members participated in Active U last year. If the program is successful this fall, it will continue into the winter, Edgren said.

Apart from Active U Autumn, University students and faculty have access to an array of programs offered by MHealthy, including fitness classes, personal training, nutrition consultations and cooking classes. In addition to striving to cut health care costs and creating a more productive workplace, MHealthy aims to “improve the health and wellness of employees and reduce their risk,” said Karen Schmidt, MHealthy project senior manager.

MHealthy was started in 2005 as part of University President Mary Sue Coleman’s vision of promoting a culture of health at the University, according to Schmidt. Though MHealthy’s target audience is faculty and staff, some programs are available to students and community members for a fee.

Services like consultations with registered dieticians are free for faculty and staff, while other programs such as fitness classes and personal training sessions are available to all members of the University community, Schmidt said.

“We’ve really tried to take down the barriers of cost so folks are able to participate in these health and well-being activities,” Schmidt said. “So we’re hoping that cost won’t keep people from participating.”

MHealthy has 16 certified personal trainers on staff and about 2,600 appointments were made with them in fiscal year 2010, according to MFit wellness coordinator Eric Breitenbeck. Students took up fifty-seven percent of the appointments and 35 percent by staff.

Laurie Rau, an accountant senior for University Housing, said she has used many of the programs MHealthy offers, including individual coaching for weight loss and online health courses. Rau said she has also participated in Active U in the past, but does not plan to do so this year because she prefers signing up with a group of colleagues.

“When it first came, people would get their groups together and be a little competitive and it was fun, so I don’t think there’s that friendly competition,” Rau said.

LSA junior Kelsey Root said she doesn’t know much about the MHealthy or Active U Autumn program and probably won’t participate.

“I’m not a big goal person or exercise person, and I don’t do well with logging and writing down goals,” Root said.

LSA freshman Zach Reilly said he also doesn’t know what MHealthy is and hasn’t heard of Active U Autumn.

“I think it’s probably a good idea for other people, and I know there are people who would totally go for something like that,” Reilly said. “I don’t look down on the idea of it, but, personally, I’m not really interested in stuff like that.”

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