For eight months, Muncie resident Earl Willson has been using the Healthy Lifestyle Center (HLC) — a Ball State service that provides students and the Muncie community with free nutrition, health and exercise advice.

“Over the past 18 years, I’ve been in bad shape,” Willson said. “Now, I can walk better since I’ve been [to the HLC], talk better and I’ve lost 60 pounds.”

The HLC opened a new location in the Health Professions Building on Ball State’s campus at the start of the fall 2019 semester. Last year, the center operated solely at the Meridian Health Center in Muncie.

“We’re not actually doing assessments on [the patients],” said Nicole Koontz, operative director at HLC. “We're just basically allowing them to help make healthier lifestyle choices.”

Apart from providing information about exercise, Koontz said, the center also provides at-home physical fitness programs for clients who don’t have enough money for a gym membership.

Willson, who has suffered from 15 brain injuries, a heart attack and opioid addiction, said he struggled to understand his health issues from doctors in the past. The HLC helped him understand his various diagnoses.

“I had some diagnoses, and [an HLC staffer] broke them down for me, showed me what injuries they’re coming from and what they are,” he said. 

Besides helping Willson improve his dietary choices and exercise habits, he said, the center helped him regulate his stress levels and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Every year, Leonard Kaminsky, administrative director of the HLC, secures a Ball Brothers Foundation development grant which allows the HLC to provide its services for free. The project, Kaminsky said, also receives internal support from the College of Health and the Fisher Institute of Health and Well Being.

Students and Muncie residents can schedule appointments with the HLC staff or speak with the concierge, who can answer general questions about fitness or administer health screenings like blood pressure and BMI checks.

Willson said he visits the HLC “every one or two months” for those screenings and to track his weight loss with the at-home exercise plan, which he continues to use to get in better shape. 

He also seeks advice from the HLC staff on his mental health, specifically when it comes to his emotional well being.

“It helps with stress,” Willson said. “You can be in stress and feel bad, and they can help you feel better.”

Contact Amelia Cisna with comments at amcisna@bsu.edu or on Twitter @AmeliaCisna. Contact John Lynch with comments at jplynch@bsu.edu or on Twitter @WritesLynch.