Harding University Healthy Eating Active Living was introduced to students on campus in 2019. Although activities were slowed due to COVID-19, HU HEAL is now offering more opportunities for students to focus on their nutrition and exercise.
Christy Swaid, founder and CEO of HEAL Inc., founded the HEAL program in 2002 after retiring from a career of extreme sports.
“I began noticing how many children were not eating healthy food or moving adequately, and the consequence is early disease and obesity,” said Swaid. “This knowledge moved my spirit to design a rescue mission to save children from suffering preventable diseases and put them on a path of health and wellness.”
Swaid said it was clear that the best place to begin the HEAL mission would be in physical education classes in elementary schools. Before HEAL came to Har-ding, it was implemented across the state of Alabama.
When asked what motivated her to bring HEAL to Harding, Swaid said it all boils down to one word: love.
“I love my Harding family and the beautiful students applying themselves to higher education to be further equipped with skills to glorify the Lord. Health supports brain performance, mental and emotional balance, and self-esteem. These qualities make college life so much more enjoyable and manageable.”
When Swaid introduced the program to faculty, Britney Finley, assistant professor of kinesiology, immediately jumped on board.
“I loved it,” said Finley. “That’s where my heart is, is helping those kids, and that is exactly what she is doing.”
Finley meets with a team of students each week to develop tools and resources HU HEAL can use to encourage students to invest in fitness and nutrition. During the 2020-21 school year HEAL offered multiple events including a GLOW run, cooking competitions, events at a yoga studio in Searcy, StartHer runs – a company building community through running — and fitness classes such as yoga, strength training and spin. Most, if not all, of these events were at no cost to students.
HU HEAL also provides opportunities for students to request a personalized fitness plan or a workout buddy. Students are paired with a HEAL ambassador who does a workout with them, encourages them, and creates customized fitness guides to meet their needs. Dr. Bryan Phillips, exercise physiologist and exercise science professor, helps ambassadors personalize these plans to individual students.
In addition to growing HEAL on Har-ding’s campus, Swaid hopes to see doors open to continue sharing the love of Christ with others.
“Heal provides an opportunity to show love to all people and tell them how valuable they are. The HEAL lifestyle is for everyone no matter the age, race, gender, religion or political stance. This conversation opens the door for powerful mission work. I hope to see the HEAL movement well-embraced and understood across campus so we can begin leading the path to implementing HEAL in K-12 schools across Arkansas.”
HU HEAL resources — basic nutrition information, workout plans, exercise principles and more — are found in their new office located just inside the Ganus Activities Complex. HU HEAL also has partnered with student health services and Chartwells to offer a more comprehensive wellness approach on campus. This fall they hope to have pop-ups in the cafeteria at least once a month to allow students an opportunity to taste and learn about new foods.