Cal State San Bernardino has struck gold.

Not the mineral or element, but something even more valuable – a commitment to creating a culture of wellness on campus and the community.

For the second consecutive year, CSUSB has been designated as a gold status campus by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for the university’s implementation of the Exercise is Medicine (EIM) initiative, which encourages health care providers and exercise professionals to work together to use physical activity as a form of medicine to prevent and a way to treat a number of non-communicable diseases. 

CSUSB is one of six CSU campuses recognized as EIM campuses as having a healthy academic environment that emphasizes their commitment to create a culture of wellness. Along with San Bernardino, Long Beach and Sacramento are listed as having gold status, while Monterey Bay, East Bay and Humboldt are listed as having silver status. The six CSU campuses are among the 167 campuses listed as EIM campuses as having gold, silver or bronze status.

The CSUSB Exercise is Medicine On Campus (EIM-OC) program mirrors what is happening at colleges and universities across the country and around the world, said Jason Ng, a CSUSB assistant professor of kinesiology, who serves as the program’s advisor.

“The vision of EIM-OC is to see all campus and community members across multiple disciplines discover, share, and adopt principles of Exercise is Medicine that will help change the culture of chronic disease prevention and management campus-wide,” said Ng. “EIM-OC aims to make exercise resources more accessible to the CSUSB campus community.” 

The gold designation recognizes the campus for implementing the exercise initiative by bringing together various entities focusing on student health,” Ng said.

“We're working to bring the medical and the exercise communities together, so we’re uniting health care providers – like physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners in the medical field – with exercise professionals,” Ng said.

Cal State San Bernardino and the other participating colleges were recognized at a virtual EIM-OC recognition ceremony on June 12 after the ACSM’s 67th annual meeting in San Francisco on May 26 was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The CSUSB Exercise is Medicine-OC program is a joint effort led by the kinesiology department, in conjunction with the Student Health Center and the Recreation & Wellness Department, along with members of the EIM-OC Student Club.

The EIM-OC leadership committee consists of Ng as the program advisor; Dr. Richelle Marracino Ghazal, the medical chief of the staff of the Student Health Center as the health care professional; Vilayat Del Rossi, the director of the Recreation & Wellness Department, as the health fitness professional; and two students from the CSUSB EIM-OC Student Club, Margarita Serrano, president, and Heidy Argueta Bustos, vice president.

An example of the program collaboration can be found when a student goes to the CSUSB Student Health Center for an examination, treatment or advice. They are also asked about their physical activities, Ng said.

Depending on their responses, their behaviors and health history, such as high blood pressure, weight gain, high cholesterol or simply being inactive, the student may be referred to an EIM-OC exercise consultant at the Student Health Center who then may refer them to various physical activity resources, such as the Recreation & Wellness Department, where they will receive advice and direction about exercise or becoming fit from an exercise specialist at the recreation center, some of who are kinesiology interns, Ng said.

“We have students in our department that work as interns in the Student Health Center who can give consultations to educate clients about how to incorporate physical activity in their lifestyle,” Ng said.

Serrano, a kinesiology major, said the program’s goal is to provide solutions for individuals to become more physically active regardless of their lifestyle.

“We know that today, a lot of the leading causes of death in the U.S. are due to physical inactivity, so what EIM does is promote exercise or any physical activity as medicine to improve health outcomes and prevent future diseases,” said Serrano, who after graduation plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health at Cal State Northridge and eventually pursue a career in health education, where she will teach and implement programs in the community about behaviors that promote health and wellness.

The interaction with medical professionals as part of the program has also helped kinesiology students in their training and is getting them ready to join the workforce after graduation, Ng said.

 Ng stressed that a key element of the program is working with the medical field.

“I think our doctors are probably the most influential,” Ng said. “When our doctors on our campus are advocating for physical activity, I think that it makes a difference in our students’ minds.”

As the medical profession works more with exercise professionals, it is also expanding to the health care industry.

“So when the medical profession starts recognizing all this evidence of exercise and the support of exercise to be used to treat diseases and prevent diseases, this should subsequently lead more health care systems to adopt the Exercise is Medicine solution,” Ng said. “Health systems are at the forefront of this. For example Kaiser Permanente is doing a lot of outreach about incorporating physical activity.”

“This is particularly special to us in the Inland Empire because the EIM initiative, which has gone global and is now present in six continents, was started by a physician at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana,” Ng said.

As patients or clients increase their interest in physical activity options to prevent or manage certain health conditions, more exercise-related jobs in health care are opening up, so the kinesiology department is preparing its students to graduate and be ready to work with the medical field, Ng said.

“Our students are prepared for all of those work responsibilities, requirements, and even those preferred qualifications,” Ng said.

As an example, Ng talked about a CSUSB kinesiology graduate who now works as an exercise physiologist at Long Beach Memorial Hospital where he uses exercise in working primarily with cardiac patients.

“So anybody with cardiac issues is taking their cardiac medication just like their cardiologist prescribed to them, but they're also seeing him for the exercise prescription,” Ng said. “He teaches them how to exercise to help with their recovery and perhaps after they just had heart surgery. He sees people that had heart surgery or they're experiencing symptoms and they just got a referral from a doctor.”

More and more jobs related to exercise are opening up in California and in the nation, said Ng, as it is even moving into the corporate level. He said recently there was an opening at Mattel Inc. for an exercise specialist, as well as openings at various high tech and computer companies.

“You're not going to make the toys, but you're going to take care of the people that make the toys,” Ng said.

Similarly, the focus on exercise and activity has also found a home with high tech giants that are developing programs, phones and computer wearables that focus on health, exercise and activities.

As an example, Ng said the Apple corporation “is making all these products that help with health. They have technology specialists, but when it comes to health and health data, well, that’s where they need to bring in health and exercise specialists.”

He said the bottom line is the concerted efforts in society toward healthy living and making sure exercise and physical activity are part of it.

“Exercise and health care are transforming in the field. Here at our university, we’re a microcosm representing the larger community, and we aspire to lead by example as we continue to develop and implement the Exercise is Medicine solution,” Ng said.