People who seek lifestyle change benefit when reality TV meets scientific research

People who seek lifestyle change benefit when reality TV meets scientific research
May 20, 2008

Phil Brozynski, Media Relations Manager
(630) 829-6094

It started innocently with an idea to hold a contest pitting two teams of students, faculty and staff against each other to see which team could become “The Biggest Loser.” It ended after a remarkable journey that brought disparate people together determined to become physically and mentally healthier and conquer the obstacles that stood in their way. The “White” team may have won, but there were no “losers” in the 2008 Benedictine University Healthier Body Challenge, said Craig Broeder, Ph.D., director of the Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology (M.S.C.E.P.) program at Benedictine University and director and coordinator of the 12-week challenge that was loosely based on the reality TV program, “The Biggest Loser.” “The greatest achievement of this project is that we were able to take a group of people who really had no idea what they had inside of them and see them come together, work hard to help not only themselves but help others to see what they are worth and to see what they had inside of them,” Broeder said. “It was all about people coming together wanting to change,” he said. Of the 24 people who participated following a pre-screening process that included extensive interviews with Broeder and his team of graduate students, 21 completed the three-month challenge. Nineteen of those demonstrated marked change in both their fitness levels and lifestyle. “None of these people might have changed if they had not seen other people work as hard as they did,” Broeder said. During the course of the challenge, the participants took 14,889,060 steps on a treadmill and burned 3,897,450 calories. They also lifted free weights and trained on weight machines. Had none of them eaten again, the calories they burned would have been enough to offset the weight gain produced by 7,191 Big Macs. Their efforts were monitored using the bodybugg™ system developed by Apex, a division of 24 Hour Fitness. “Our goal is to try to help people succeed in fitness,” said Richard H. Stewart, M.S., research and development manager for Apex. “Obesity is the No. 1 health problem in the United States, yet only 6 to 7 percent of people who approach their weight issues by dieting enjoy any degree of success.” The bodybugg™ is an intelligent calorie management system designed to provide the wearer with the tools he or she needs to maintain their ideal weight. The device monitors four different data points to track calories burned with 92 percent accuracy. It interfaces with a computer to track how many calories an individual has burned and consumed every day. The participants in the Healthier Body Challenge were linked to a computer 24 hours per day employing the bodybugg™ system. “The participants were able to see the calories they were consuming and the calories they were burning on a daily and hourly basis firsthand and see it in real time,” Stewart said. The challenge also provided a unique opportunity for graduate students in the M.S.C.E.P. program including team leaders Jean-Luc Leiba (Carrollton, Texas) and Jessica Hendriksen (Lake Geneva, Wis.) and personal trainer Frank Clarizio (Homer Glen, Ill.). Undergraduate nutrition students Ryan Lown (Downers Grove, Ill.) and Catlin Plank (Oak Forest, Ill.) and student intern Rebekah Smith (Naperville, Ill.) also contributed to the project. “My students were unbelievable,” Broeder said. “This project gave them real-world, real-people learning.” The “winners” received prizes provided by major sponsors including Apex and 24 Hour Fitness, COSMED Corporation, The Abbey Resort and Spa on Lake Geneva and Villa St. Benedict; and challenge prize sponsors The Naperville Running Store, Trader Joe’s, Gajda Health Plus Network, Endure It and The Red Tomato. But the real prize was the lifestyle changes the program helped the participants make…lifestyle changes that Broeder, his students and the research staff at Apex hope are lifelong. “What you see on TV is artificial…it’s a close-captured environment,” Broeder said. “What these people did is real.”


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.