Yvonne Roache, the Institute’s Health and Safety Officer who is the prime mover in the initiative, says she hopes it will help staff and student become more health-aware by taking advantage of benefits on their own doorstep. “Here on campus we have a wealth of knowledge on the subject, great fitness facilities and some really good walks,” said Yvonne, who lives in Carney, Co Sligo.
“This is our first-ever Campus Wellness Programme and staff and students across a number of our specialist Departments have been arranging events and activities to spotlight Health and Wellness.”
The programme includes nutritional talks, Diabetes Ireland checks, a Stop Smoking campaign, walks in the 70 acre campus, a Healthy Eating Week, gym fitness promotions, and blood and body mass index checks.
But while most staff and students are able to dip in and out of the events at their leisure, 16 hardy souls are already in the throes of the most testing but perhaps most rewarding central element of the programme – the ‘IT Sligo Employee Wellness Challenge’.
From February 5th to March 26, the 16 employees are involved in an intensive week-by-week programme of group and one-to-one talks and advice with a professional nutritionist, and fitness and exercise regimes under the supervision of personal trainers at the Institute’s Knocknarea Arena.
And Yvonne Roache is practising what she preaches by signing up for the Challenge. Last year she discovered that she has Multiple Sclerosis and for her the Challenge is a way of getting fitter while also demystifying perceptions about MS.
“People have certain images of MS which don’t reflect the reality that many people who have it, cope with it and are able to get on with their lives and work and raise families. As a Health and Safety Officer, I am certainly not shy about talking my condition. I take the view that if bad things happen there are ways of dealing with them and getting on with life.
“My condition is called Relapsing Remitting MS. I reckoned that the Staff Challenge would do me good because I feel when things are not going so well for me, the fitter my body is then the quicker I can come out of a relapse. I’m hoping to do a 5K run at the end of the programme along with the others on it.”
The Staff Challenge is not about “fad” diets, muscle-pumping or one-size-fits-all, Yvonne explains. The trainers adopt a holistic approach by, among other aspects, looking at behavioural changes that are needed to sustain health eating and by matching gym activity to individual capability and goals.
Nutritionist Aine Waldron in her talks with the participants emphasises that a balanced lifestyle is key to good health. “Diet and physical activity are equally important. You can’t have one without the other. They are interlinked in preventing or combating chronic diseases and obesity. It is about lifestyle change.”
Aine, who operates Nutri-Mission Health and Nutrition, in Sligo says: “In life you’re going to have your good days and your bad days, and as dedicated as people are to a new lifestyle of healthy eating and fitness, some inevitably will ‘fall off the wagon’ at times. But one of the benefits of programmes such as this Staff Challenge is in recognising that, and learning how to cope and getting back on track.”
Aine has a weekly blog at nutrimission.ie giving step-by-step details about the nutritional lifestyle that the Staff Challenge participants are following.
Above: Pictured at the launch of the IT Sligo Campus Wellness Programme are, from left to right, Health and Safety Officer Yvonne Roache; Nutritionist Aine Waldron; Accounting lecturer John Gaynor; and Geraldine Gilligan from the Institute’s Finance Department.
Below: Staff at IT Sligo pictured at the Institute’s fist Campus Wellness Programme, which involves an eight-week series of activities promoting wellness.