James Hill, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, talks about obesity during the blogger conference

By Chris Casey | University Communications

AURORA, Colo. – Health and fitness bloggers from across the nation discovered there’s no better place to learn about their passion than the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

About 125 bloggers attended the Fitness & Health Blogger Conference, the nation’s premier event for healthy-lifestyle bloggers, at the new wellness center June 22-24. This was not a run-of-the-mill conference where attendees passively sit through one speaker session after another. At the state-of-the-art Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, bloggers took part in exercise classes, cooking demonstrations and many interactive breakout sessions.

Michelle Hickey, owner of Positively Well: Wellness Solutions for Work and Life Balance, recently changed careers from the pharmaceutical industry to being a self-employed wellness professional. The conference provided invaluable information, she said.

“This is my way to start networking in this industry and learning some tips and tricks,” Hickey said. “I’m from Boulder, so this is close.”

On Friday, James O. Hill, PhD, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, gave a keynote talk on “The Importance of an Evidence-Based Approach to Health & Wellness.”

Hill, a nationally recognized expert on obesity, explained the many factors contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States. His presentation turned into a lively exchange with the bloggers, who interjected questions and observations during the discussion.

A conference attendee asked Hill if New York City’s recent ban of super-sized soda drinks will end up curbing obesity.

“People want to attack sugar and regulate sugar. We continue to make the mistake of focusing on one thing,” Hill said. “If we reduce sugar consumption by half I don’t think we move the needle on obesity very much, because it’s just one factor.”

The combination of fat and sugar is the real culprit to weight gain, but there’s more to it than that. “Being obese is a natural response to an environment that encourages excess food intake and low energy expenditure,” Hill said. “… We’ve created the environment to serve the biology, essentially. You can get through the day without any activity other than when you can’t help it.”

Hill pointed out that an Amish male takes an average 18,000 steps a day compared to the the 5,000 steps averaged by other American men and women. He asked what can be learned from this. A blogger got big laughs from the group when she responded, “We should become Amish?”

Hill and the conference attendees enjoyed a lively dialogue about who is responsible for the obesity epidemic: Is it individual responsibility or the food industry?

Ninety-one percent of fitness and health bloggers blog about their “life experiences,” while only 37 percent get their information from research and academic websites, according to Allan Wright of Zephyr Adventures, which organized the conference.

The evidence-based approach to wellness at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center was on full display as bloggers enjoyed access to experts including Inigo San Millan, PhD (achieving/maintaining physical fitness), Lisa Corbin, MD (integrative/alternative medicine) and Holly Wyatt, MD (current evidence on weight loss and management).

Jim Ellis, MBA, director of operations at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, told the group that the nation faces “daunting challenges” in the battle against obesity and toward overall wellness. “You help us get our message of evidence-based wellness out to the public and we help you by providing a resource that you probably wouldn’t get anywhere else in the world,” Ellis said.

Earlier this year, the wellness center hosted a national conference for professional reporters who cover health and wellness on their beats.

(Photo: James O. Hill, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, makes a point about the problem of obesity in his keynote address during the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference June 22.)

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