Transforming Lives with Fitness by Design

MOUNT OLIVE – University of Mount Olive developed Fitness by Design (FBD) in 2008 as a regionally focused initiative to target low income families from Wayne, Duplin and Sampson Counties at high risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Since its inception, FBD has successfully helped 320 people improve their health. “FBD serves adults by attacking their risk factors, which includes poor nutrition, lack of exercise, social isolation and effects of poverty. The program achieves its goals of promoting a healthy lifestyle using three fitness components: exercise, nutrition and social involvement,” explained Dr. Bankole Olatosi, division chair of Management Services at University of Mount Olive.
Accompanied by Fitness Buddies, who are actually students from the College’s recreation and leisure studies program, participants are engaged in three-one hour sessions at the Pope Wellness Center each week. The program has helped its Fitness Buddies just as much as the people it serves in the community. “The student Fitness Buddies have developed a symbiotic relationship with the clients. One of the challenges of class instruction is helping students make the connection between what they learn and its application in the real world. Fitness by Design serves as a vehicle for this to happen,” said Dr. Olatosi. “On a personal level, unique bonds are formed between the students and the participants who often share their adult life experiences with the students.”
Another component of the FBD program is the Fitness Garden, which was designed to help participants understand the importance of healthy eating choices. “In one year, more than half of 92 participants dropped to a lower BMI level, losing over 1,200 pounds while harvesting 350 pounds of healthy food each planting period,” explained Dr. Olatosi. “Some participants have reduced medical needs and improved their quality of life. Most importantly, there has been a reduction in individualized health risks, increased general physical fitness, improved eating habits and increased knowledge of healthy lifestyle habits.”
With 89 participants currently enrolled in the program, University of Mount Olive wishes to continue to stand out as an example to other colleges in the area. Dr. Olatosi explained the bright future of FBD, “Our goal is for the FBD model to be replicated in similar resource constrained areas in the state. Rural colleges can make a difference in their community by modeling what we have done here in University of Mount Olive. Hopefully, we can assist in creating similar programs state and nationwide that benefits both the community and students as we help to improve lives. This is our vision for Fitness by Design.”
University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville.  For more information, visit
Pictured above: Junior Exercise Major Will Shearin of Pine Level is a Fitness Buddy at University of Mount Olive.  He is pictured working with one of the Fitness by Design clients.
Pictured above: Senior Sports Management Major Vince Fluellen of Morehead is a Fitness Buddy at University of Mount Olive.  He is pictured working with one of the Fitness by Design clients.