MENOMONIE — Menomonie Police Sgt. Tyler Hamann knows the stresses of responding to emergency calls, not having time to take meal breaks, getting called in early for shifts and missing planned exercise time.
“It’s a very stressful and demanding job,” said Hamann, who has been with the department since January 2014.
Hamann, a 2013 UW-Stout graduate in vocational rehabilitation with an emphasis in criminal justice, was asked by Menomonie Police Chief Eric Atkinson to start a wellness program for officers. Hamann immediately knew he wanted to work with UW-Stout.
Students in assistant professor Mike Bird’s Wellness Promotion and Programming class recently presented nutrition; physical activity and exercise; general stress reduction; and sleep health information to 16 employees from the Menomonie and UW-Stout police departments.
“It was well-received,” said Bird, chairman of the kinesiology and health department. “From our students’ perspective, it gives them real-life examples of presenting information and getting feedback.”
Along with information, students provided apps that officers could use to help track their health or get help with stress, including meditation.
Rebecca Dahlke, a senior from Hudson majoring in health, wellness and fitness, said her group presented the benefits of physical activity and exercise.
“We covered the basics of why our bodies need exercise and what the benefits are, such as weight loss and management and reducing the risk of many chronic diseases,” Dahlke said. “I talked about heart disease and how and why getting the recommended physical activity lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
“Many people have heard that exercise lowers the risk of disease but not often why and how it does,” she added. “We talked about how increasing your heart rate is healthy and how it strengthens the heart and over time makes it more efficient. Finally, we gave the officers some ideas on how to be a little more active and stretch while taking on long shifts in their patrol cars.”
Dahlke said she enjoyed the project because it gave her and other students an opportunity to present to people outside of the class.
Megan Vanderbeek, a senior health, wellness and fitness major from Bloomington, Minn., was in the group that focused on sleep, stress and meditation. “This was a great way to help out the community and ourselves,” she said. “Many students in the class are going into health promotions, and this project was a great way to see if this would be something we would like to do in the future. This helped to increase my presentation skills, teamwork skills and how to make sure a topic is directed towards a certain group of people.”
Atkinson said he enjoyed the students’ presentations. “Police officers are under a tremendous amount of stress,” Atkinson said. “They deal with a lot of incidents in a day. It does wear on you physically and mentally.”
Officers may pack healthy meals but aren’t able to take breaks to eat them and resort to fast food, Atkinson said. The students helped teach the officers about better fast-food options.
“We really are trying to improve the overall health of our employees,” Atkinson said. “It makes them more productive. Healthy people make for great officers that help keep the community safe. We are so grateful for the partnership we have with UW-Stout to provide some helpful tips.”
Hamann said he learned so much from the students, including how important sleep and nutrition are to overall health “I have always been a person who says don’t eat sugar. It’s not just that. It’s balance. You have to look at the calories, the protein and carbohydrates.”
The plan is to continue to work with UW-Stout students to have refresher courses in wellness.
“This is something we want to ingrain in our officers,” Hamann said. “We want them to live a healthier lifestyle and live longer.”