An Interview with the Health Guardians of America at NC State
The Department of Health and Exercise Studies talks with Aanandi Munshi, founder of NC State's Health Guardians of America chapter, to discuss some of the many initiatives HGA is using to help students engage with health-related topics.
By Eliza Barsanti
Health Guardians of America (HGA) is a nationwide organization that seeks to address the obesity epidemic with new, innovative solutions. HGA has a chapter at NC State that works to ultimately prevent obesity-related cardiovascular diseases and promote healthy lifestyles in the community and beyond.
To achieve this goal, HGA conducts meetings, promotes an incentivized fitness platform called Fit Life Flow, hosts exercise classes, and spreads information about nutrition on their social media platforms. We sat down with Aanandi Munshi to learn more about how HGA was founded, and discuss some of the many initiatives HGA is using to help students engage with health-related topics!
Munshi learned about and founded HGA when she was only a first-year. She explained, “The national HGA board reached out to me. They wanted to start a chapter at NC State because they don’t have a lot of reach in the South. It was actually started at UC Berkeley in California. We have a lot of chapters around the nation, but they wanted to have a stronghold in the South, and that is why HGA was brought to NC State. I think we are one of the only four schools to have a chapter of HGA in the South!”
Driven by the goal of promoting healthy lifestyle choices at NC State, Munshi set out on a long journey of founding a HGA chapter at NC State. Munshi elaborated on her deep investment in HGA’s core goal, and how that helped her persevere throughout the process.
“The main goal would be to just encourage healthy lifestyles at NC State and in our communities, because I feel that healthy eating habits, and even exercise habits, start at a young age. So if we can encourage that in our community, that’s the best thing that we can do.”
Munshi moved on to explain how the NC State chapter is tackling HGA’s national goal of reducing the impact of the obesity epidemic. She noted, “Our main goal is to combat obesity on college campuses in America and we do that through our incentivized health platform called Fit Life Flow.”
Fit Life Flow is an incentivized fitness platform that aims to motivate students to stay active. Munshi explained the details of the program further.
“It is a five-week program. At the beginning you make a $30 pledge. And every week if you work out three times for 30 minutes, you get your $30 back. It is a nationwide pool. Let’s say I worked out all three times for 30 minutes but you didn’t. You would lose money and the people who did work out would get the money. So in the end, you end up gaining money.”
In addition to Fit Life Flow, HGA started offering free fitness classes covering a range of fitness disciplines, including indoor cycling and kickboxing. HGA grew quickly, and students began to come to meetings and participate in Fit Life Flow with excitement. However, when the global pandemic changed the way students could safely stay active, HGA had to adapt. Munshi explained how HGA was able to continue promoting health and wellness without in-person fitness classes and challenges.
“After the pandemic we resorted to virtual monthly meetings. Every month we’d do one meeting on a specific topic. Last fall our meeting was just a general meeting about gym hours and exercise in general. Then we did one on bone health and one about diabetes. One meeting last semester was a student panel, and the students were from different walks of life and different careers.”
Munshi also talked about HGA’s community outreach, and how they’ve been using their platform to promote another key component of healthy living: nutrition.
“This semester, since March is national nutrition month, we’re going to try to spread awareness in our community. We’re going to local high schools to present and make youth more aware of nutrition and exercise. Our other goal is to spread awareness on social media about nutrition. We are going to post stories on our Instagram with a theme every week. This week we are going to talk about how to read a food label.”
Health and exercise studies (HES) faculty member Renee Harrington works alongside Munshi as HGA’s faculty advisor. As a HES lecturer who teaches yoga, cycling, weight training and more, Harrington shared similar goals to HGA and was a great fit for the faculty advisor position. Like HES, HGA works to promote healthy student lifestyles and make the Wolfpack more active and understanding of health-related topics.
HGA offers countless resources that help students learn more about health and become more active, healthy individuals. For more information, visit their website or check them out on Instagram. Additionally, you can help support HGA’s current campaign, “Send Your Support” here by writing letters to WakeMed patients.