Imagine Mason’s March Madness for Total Fitness

In 2006, Mason students believed they could be the best of the ‘final four’ of March Madness.  What if we could re-create that kind of excitement every year?

Imagine if GMU could LEAD an intercollegiate competition – to be the most Totally Fit campus – year after year, culminating around March Madness. We’ve been piloting this idea. 


What is Total Fitness?

The military transformed its paradigm of health to Total Force Fitness, which includes the ‘whole person’ in the whole community. The DoD used a train-the-trainer model to teach over 30,000 Army soldiers to train 10’s of 1000’s of other soldiers to be totally fit

At the 2012 Living and Leading with Resilience Conference, Colonel Bates and I presented a way for Mason to LEAD …  kickstart an intercollegiate competition – for communities to compete to be the most totally fit – using that military training. 

Creating a Culture of Total Fitness

Dr. Seligman at U Penn led the DoD Total Fitness train-the-trainer program. He stated, at the Mason Resilience conference,  “If we can train Drill Sergeants to lead resilience training in Army units, I don’t see why students can’t train their peers to be more resilient.”

Mason’s Distinguished Communication Professor, Dr. Kreps thinks it’s a testable hypothesis …  The science says that if a health communication campaign makes it POPULAR, EASY, & FUN for students and faculty to join … we can create a culture of Total Fitness. 

Piloting ‘Shared’ Service-Learning

In 2010, we began pilots across 4 undergrad and graduate courses, testing some ideas …

Would faculty integrate the development of an intercollegiate fitness competition into their existing courses using service-learning?    RESULT: Yes, it was EASY for faculty.

Would students opt into a service-learning project and collaborate across courses to develop the competition together?    RESULT: Yes, they had FUN too!   

Service-Learning Pilot #1

Dr. Rowan’s Writing for PR students conducted a survey to learn what would make it ‘POPULAR’ to join a Total Fitness team. Freshmen said: (1) Get course credit (i.e., service-learning) to help develop the competition, (2) Use retailer incentive (i.e., a Starbucks gift card), (3) Use smartphone to verify points.

Survey results from the PR students were then shared with students in Dr. Kreps’ Health Comm 404, who – for their service-learning project – designed the fitness challenge.

Service-Learning Pilot #2

Dr. Kreps’ Health Comm 404 service-learning project was to design a FUN Fitness Challenge. 

They tested a mobile health app – called WIZIT – with QR codes that converted to fitness points and prizes (sponsored by Starbucks).

And, they recruited students from yet a 3rd course (Comm 200) to actually test out the fitness challenge – as a service-learning project.

Service-Learning Pilot #3

Students who opted into this service-learning project downloaded the ‘Wizit’ app on smartphones. The one who logged in the most laps (back & forth between 2 Starbucks) during a week, won a Starbucks gift card.

Their reactions were mostly positive with suggestions for how to improve it for the next time. Overall, students among the 3 Pilots were very enthusiastic about the potential for launching and leading a March Madness for Total Fitness. 

Who at Mason would join a competition?

Janet Walker, Director of  Wellness by Mason believes it blends well with their annual Resolution Solution challenge. Their coalition spans the entire University.

Educators who teach relevant courses could offer students the option to join a ‘Total Fitness’ team for service-learning. As students apply what they learn in courses, they’d ‘serve’ to improve their team’s performance and/or help build the intercollegiate competition. 

42 Grad Programs Would Join

When we presented the idea of March Madness at the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology 2011 Conference, we surveyed these Directors.

Asked if they’d integrate the service-learning aspect into their Clinical Skills training, 42 Directors indicated that they could see it as part of the usual Practicum … engaging patients as well. 


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