It’s capstone time! That rings as both terrifying and exciting. As a senior with only two more semesters left of undergrad, the task of completing a capstone project that consists of both a research article and applied project component has me feeling the pressure. I’m confident though that upon completion of these I will have a better grasp on the direction I may take after graduation. So here it goes.
- How can we transfer children’s enjoyment of sports and play into lifetime physical activities?
- Why are physical activity participation rates so low even though people are aware of its benefits?
- Does physical activity and exercise improve mental health?
- Is there a correlation between eating disorders and excessive exercise?
- Are students receiving sufficient time in physical education class?
The first topic, How can we transfer children’s enjoyment of sports and play into lifetime physical activities?, would require support from the disciplines of Exercise Psychology, Epidemiology, Psychology, and Sociology. I am very interested in the possibility of finding an answer to this question considering I am still young myself and would not only like to share my knowledge with children but remain active throughout my own life. This could become challenging however if the research behind this topic is slim as researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface.
The second question, Why are physical activity participation rates so low even though people are aware of its benefits?, is another topic that explodes my curiosity. What are the reasons individuals cease to remain active, it is mind boggling to me. In regards to answering this question, Exercise Psychology, Psychology, and Sociology are disciplines that would go hand in hand in attempting to make sense of the topic. This question could be challenging because it make lack sustenance in providing legitimate answers. For example, many responses may be as simple as having “no time” or simply not possessing the motivation to exercise.
Does physical activity and exercise improve mental health? This topic should be pretty self-explanatory, but hey, who am I to speak for everyone. Covering the disciplines of Exercise Physiology and Exercise Psychology, this topic could pose issues in that it is too basic and repetitive. Readers may find the topic to be boring as they more than likely have a strong opinion of the matter without having to reach the research I find on the topic.
Idea number four: Is there a correlation between eating disorders and excessive exercise? This topic is very interesting to me as I have always been perplexed by the lifestyle of someone who has or is suffering from an eating disorder. Then, to question whether excessive exercise can play a role, is even more intriguing. The disciplines that would reside among this topic are Exercise Nutrition and Exercise Psychology. Some trouble I could come across with this topic however, is the limited research that is out to date. There is endless research on eating disorders in general, but ones that are exercise specific may be more rare.
Lastly, Are students receiving sufficient time in physical education class? is a topic that could serve well for future physical educators and the school systems they work in. I am interested to see whether or not the numbers pose unrest or if schools are allotting enough time. Health Education, Health Promotion, and Physical Education are the disciplines that would work together in supporting this topic but could again be limited, in that the numbers show students are not getting enough PA and the solutions are at a stand still.
- Shadow professionals in their line of work
- Ecuador video
- Health Awareness Presentations
- Volunteer with Special Olympics NH
- Interview exercise and health professionals
I am pretty set on idea #1, which is to shadow (at least) 10 different professionals in their line of work, be it Physical Therapy or Dietetics, but I’ve also included 4 other potential ideas. This project would consist of me not only getting to witness first hand what a day in their life as a professional would look like, but I would also be able to interview them on their journey before their job as well as their aspirations for the future. This would not only give me a glimpse into the many different professions I could pursue with my major, but it would also get their name out in the world through my showcasing of their achievements. The biggest challenge I may find with this project is the availability of these people and tracking down ones that are willing to let me join them during their workday.
Constructing a video from my time in Ecuador is another idea I have. I’ve served with a volunteer medical mission team to Guayaquil for the past two years where we have served the children in performing pro-bono, spine and orthopedic surgeries. By creating a video of our experience and transformation of these children throughout the years, I would not only be reliving the fulfilling experience I’ve had, but I would be able to share and showcase the work of our medical team and the miracles they perform. A challenge with this project could land in the technology aspect as I am not versed in videography. Simply put, my vision of the video could be much more glamorous than what I produce.
I could also take on the project of presenting to local schools on topic of health awareness. This would help to solidify my knowledge on the topic while simultaneously sharing it with younger generations with the hope that pieces of my presentation would reside with them. This could be a challenging feat as I would not only have to create a legitimate presentation that is appropriate for a variety of ages, but I would also have to coordinate a showing time with various schools.
Another extremely fulfilling project I have considered is volunteering for Special Olympics. As an Applied Exercise and Health Studies major, giving my time to these individuals and helping them through means of sport would grant me the experience of working with such an incredible population of people as well as give them my support and guidance. A challenge that I could come across in foreseeing this project through is the time commitment that may be required.
Lastly, and very similar to the first, would be to interview Exercise and Health Professionals about their career. Instead of shadowing them in their work place for the day, I would utilize brief meetings (in person or by phone) to interview them and get a sense of their timeline in formulating the career they now have today. This could have the potential of allowing me to reach out to a great number of people and hearing their stories in which I could share to others. A major set back that I would have to keep in mind were I to pursue this project would be that it may be hard to justify why it serves as worthwhile to my community.
So many ideas but I’m excited to see where they take me! Tune back in to see what I come with!
I never wanted to go to college. My plan after high school was to enlist in the United States Navy and see where a career in the armed forces would take me. I was unlike my classmates who were eager to start a new education and dive into preparing for their future. Those dreams of mine quickly diminished however, when I suffered a knee injury that required surgery. Knee surgery meant no Navy. That’s when I began to look at schools, apply, and apathetically choose one to attend that next Fall. Right from the start, college and I were not compatible. I attended the University of New England my first semester of freshman year and transferred to Plymouth State that following semester. For many reasons that I will not indulge you with, UNE was not the school for me. Thankfully, Plymouth did become the place but with time, patience, and a bit of risk. So let me tell you about that risk.
It is called Interdisciplinary Studies, but we just call it “IDS.” Starting out an Exercise & Sport Physiology major, my thoughts in pursuing that field of study stemmed from my love of exercise and the human body. Perfect right? I made it to my junior year and had a brutal first semester. The courses I took were difficult sure, but what made that semester in particular so grueling, was the constant battle I had with the sudden disinterest in the material I was learning and the career paths that would result from that material. I was frustrated that I did not love my educational experience and struggled with making it to class every day. I needed change, a breath of fresh air really, and I gained that after walking into Robin DeRosa’s office one morning to discuss a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.
Upon entering her office, my conception of IDS was that it served as a pathway for students to graduate college with a legitimate degree, despite the uneasiness in the specific field of study they are interested in. I had the impression that I could take classes across a range of disciplines and it wouldn’t matter if they related. In a sense, my understanding of IDS was not completely unsound, but what I learned in my meeting with Robin and every day following, is that IDS is not just another option for students, it is a gift. It serves the student who has very sincere passion for a field but also feels strongly about another and struggles with which to choose from. It also serves the student like me, who has many broad interests and can narrow a few down, but still have no idea where they want to take them. IDS grants both types of students the opportunity to take their interests, find the connections between them, and blend them into their own personalized harmony of learning.
My journey in IDS has just started but I am already thankful for the guidance and encouragement I have had along the way. The course that I am now just wrapping up called Introduction to IDS is responsible for some of my success and understanding of this approach to learning. Before enrolling I had the notion that the class would revolve around the creation of my new, personalized major which it did, but it also incorporated readings and activities that helped develop my knowledge of Interdisciplinary Studies as a whole. It allowed me the chance to see just how revolutionary IDS has become.
A quote that I fell in love with from one of our readings, The Benefits and Challenges of Interdisciplinarity, exemplifies what IDS supports as it states, “Education is exploration, a phenomenon that cannot be neatly packaged and universally distributed.” Before IDS I felt as though the education I was receiving was indeed being packaged and labeled in a regimented way. I had no say in what classes to take for they were outlined in the major, one class beginning a pre-requisite for another and so on. Where was the flexibility? College was supposed to be the opportunity to expand my horizons and study a plethora of courses. Instead, I entered into a 4-year plan with the only flexibility being the choice to perform research or get an internship.
It would be accurate to say that prior to my engagement with IDS, I was feeling suffocated by college. It felt as though I was a puppet in the university system. They told me what classes to take and when to take them. Here is a passage from another reading, How Do We Do Interdisciplinarity? that spoke to all my beliefs about education. It reads,
“If students are living their lives in preparation for life, when will they start living? When do rules and regulations pay off? The answer is never. If students aren’t free to be curious, engaged, and invested in what they’re learning, then they may never be curious, engaged, or invested in their lives. Education is about more than passing a test or being accepted to the “right” school, it’s about self-discovery and personal growth as an individual.” When I look back only a semester’s time, my growth as an individual and student is vividly evident. I have reintroduced excitement in my goals and gained confidence in my new program’s capabilities.
It baffles me that I had not heard about Interdisciplinary Studies until this year. Where was it when I was applying to schools 3 years ago? From my exposure with IDS over the past few months, it is clear to me how much a university thrives from its integration. Students that were once discouraged are now passionate and engaged in their learning; I am a prime example of that. IDS is an educational approach that is integrative and revolutionary and it is my sincere hope that PSU can expand the program further than it already has. I want incoming freshman to be aware of IDS and all the opportunities it can provide them, because interdisciplinary success at a collegiate level can only produce greater success when those students graduate and take on a career in the real world. I want them to being willing to take risks for their education, especially when the results can be so rewarding.
IDS has exploded this year at Plymouth State. It was once a word that got bounced around in subtle conversations, and now serves as topics of conversation. It is the reason my education finally has meaning and why I am excited for what lies ahead. My hopes for what lies ahead? Honestly, I’ve yet to narrow that down. What I can tell you is that I want to continue living with the passion I feel today. My program is titled Applied Exercise & Health Studies and I have never before been so passionate about practicing what I preach. I have gained enormous motivation in my health practices while also discovering a desire to help others in theirs. If three years ago someone told me I should become a personal trainer, nutritionist, or health coach, I would have shut those ideas down. Where I stand today however, with the newly gained knowledge, insight, and experiences, they may not have been far off. I have no idea what lies ahead, but I cannot wait to find out.
If you want to know more about PSU and the Interdisciplinary Studies program, feel free to reach out to me or take a read from the link below!
So I heard Pilates was hard, and man were they right…
I am no newbie when it comes to exercise, but Danielle Zecker-Hannon’s Pilates class at PSU surely made my body work in ways I was not accustomed to. As someone who practices yoga regularly I foresaw my first Pilates class being a breeze, but after completing my first hour and fifteen minute session, my body relentlessly pealed its way off the matt by the end. Never before had I endured an exercise session that targeted my core so intensely and that challenged my mind’s focus. Now I may make it sound like Pilates is not enjoyable and an activity I would never recommend, but that is far from the truth. With the deepest sincerity I can say that it is one of the most gratifying forms of exercise I have ever experienced and one that has made me eager for more!
Pilates targets the core or “powerhouse” region of the body, but more importantly and what I have come to learn from each session, is that it is a system of movement that exercises not only the body but the mind. With each class I have been able to practice removing my tasks and worries of each day and for that hour surrender my focus to only Pilates. In that space, my only job becomes my Pilates practice and what I let my body perform on my matt. Being exposed to the power of the mind and its capabilities when it is exercised has been advantageous not only in my Pilates practice but my everyday life experiences. While I have learned to compose myself in Pilates so that I can persist through moves that produce a fiery burn in my muscles, I can also use that composure to lessen the stress that may weigh me down day to day.
A workout for the body AND mind. Pretty amazing. If you are like me and want to know more, here are two links below that give great insight into the aim of Pilates and some of the benefits that can be taken away from its practice!
Push through the pain. No pain, no gain, right? Well, to be honest that is all relative. When you are trying to beat your personal record on chest press, the weight is heavy and you have correct form, then yes, push through those last few reps. When you are running your last 1/4 mile in a race and your hamstring is clearly screaming at you that it’s pulled, that is when you should surrender to the pain and ignore the voice in your head that tells you to keep sprinting.
The importance of relaxation. That is one thing I learned in my Basic Athletic Training course taught by Dr. Levy. It serves as the first letter in the acronym RICER, the foundation and guidelines for treatment following an injury. Too often I have been deviant in following these guidelines in sports. Whether I pushed through shin splints to play in that soccer game or simply denied my exhaustion and need for a sub, I was not only being a disservice to my body, but to my teammates for not giving 110% to them, therefor degrading our performance potential as a whole.
The importance of relaxing your body upon suffering an injury or simply utilizing a rest day after a full week of weight-lifting is crucial for our body’s recovery. By relaxing, your brain can assist the muscles in relieving pain and efforts to promote the healing process. Healing takes time and if we do not grant our body’s the time to recuperate, injuries can worsen along with our physical and mental stamina. So it is simple people, listen to your body’s and rest when it tells you to! Put up those cleats if your body is telling you to and recover!
If you want to learn more about RICE therapy or the role of the Athletic Trainer, here’s a link to their National Association that’s filled with tons of great info!
So, Pilates and Athletic Training. Do they relate? Of course! Maybe not evidently so, but in relation to my Applied Exercise and Health Studies degree they are a perfect match. Exercise and sports are activities that require both physical and mental strength. Those strengths can vary from person to person, but they exist regardless. Much of a person’s physical strength is linked to the mental strength they have to complete that last rep and fight through the burn, or simply know when to stop and refrain from pushing too far to prevent injury. While Pilates is a physical activity, the mind is also engaged just as much if not more than the body’s musculature and skeletal components. It is through the practice of Pilates that the mind can be trained to overcome physical barriers and utilize that training in others areas of our lives off our matt.
These courses have exposed me to more wonders of the human body and allowed me to discover where my strengths and weaknesses lie both on a physical and mental level. With this awareness and knowledge I am excited to explore beyond these courses and dig deeper into the workings of our anatomy and accumulate expertise from different fields of study that are linked to our health behaviors and exercise performance.
A classroom with four walls, a whiteboard, and desks, or a forest with chirping birds, a cool breeze, and the smell of pine trees all around you; which would you prefer? My hunch senses that you would choose the later. Luckily, for those younger generations in countries like Scotland, an outdoor classroom like the one described above, may become more prevalent in the education system than a traditional lecture hall, which most students are used to.
In Pete Allison, David Carr, and George Meldrum’s article, Potential for excellence: interdisciplinary learning outdoors as a moral enterprise, formal schooling is examined and compared to outdoor learning which is understood to be an “essentially interdisciplinary moral enterprise.” In addition, this article touches on the beliefs and values of outdoor learning that are related to Aristotle and Dewey, two philosophers that believed in experiential learning and the impact those experiences can have on the individual. It is the aim of this article to address the disconnect between formal schooling and academic growth, and introduce an “educational approach that aims to explore and develop understanding of different subject topics and also, thereby, of connections between them,” (P. Allison, et al.) which they defined as outdoor learning.
Dewey strongly opposed subject-centered schooling. He believed that traditional schools that outlined their curriculum by subjects imposed barriers between science, math, history, art, moral, and other realms of inquiry. With the idea that knowledge was a matter of human construction rather than a transfer of words from teacher to student, Dewey explained that “any and all enquiry that leads to meaningful knowledge would have to be interdisciplinary and could not be ‘pigeon-holed’ in the form of distinct subjects.” The idea that knowledge is gained from people’s collection of experiences and ideas is supported by the belief that education is more than just the subjects taught, but the personal and social components learned as well.
As an Adventure Education major at Plymouth State, I have been lucky enough to experience this type of education first hand. Last semester I took a foundations of adventure education course that outlined the field and gave us a taste of the careers that could be possible upon graduation. We spent our mornings outside, rain or shine, engaging in games and activities that challenged us both collaboratively and individually. After those challenges we were asked to reflect on our experiences. During those reflections I was able to not only analyze our successes and failures, but take the time to notice the growth in myself as a student. I was able to evoke emotion and passion in my writing and solidify the impact that nature has on my life, especially when shared with my peers. From my experience in the class, I can whole-heartedly stand by the words of this article that preach, “We believe that outdoor learning needs to be conceived more in terms of developing awareness of and opportunities for the exploration of individual and social, personal and interpersonal, values and choices,”(P. Allison, et al.) While I was learning technical skills such as how to tie a trucker’s hitch knot, I was more importantly solidifying and uncovering my values while simultaneously acquiring the skills to share them with others. It is my belief as well as this article’s, that a more interdisciplinary perspective on education and the implementation of experiential learning grants the development of moral, possibly more-so than with specific subjects.
As a novice interdisciplinarian, my views on education have begun to develop and flourish. Before my recent discovery of Interdisciplinary Studies, I was living behind a veil of false perception. Go to school, get a degree, find a job with your degree. That’s what everyone tells you, right? Well they shouldn’t. What they should say is, go to school, learn about what interests you, and do not worry about landing your dream job right when you graduate. I am beginning to see the flaw in education and because of that am grateful for uncovering IDS when I did. While I am still under the subject-centered curriculum, Interdisciplinary Studies has granted me the ability to choose courses that hold my interest, engage in direct experience, and even allow for reflection in some courses. It is my hope that countries such as the U.S. will learn from the ongoing educational trends in Europe and attempt to implement the practice in our future schools.
Allison, P., Carr, D., & Meldrum, G. (2012). Potential for excellence: interdisciplinary learning outdoors as a moral enterprise. Curriculum Journal, 23(1), 43-58. doi:10.1080/09585176.2012.650469
PROJECT PERFECT WORLD
Pediatric Orthopaedic Mission Trip – Quayaquil, Ecuador
Every year for more than 20 years, Project Perfect World or PPW, has sent medical teams to Ecuador near the sea port of Quayaquil, to provide orthopaedic care for treatment of congenital and acquired deformities in children. For the past 13 years, teams have traveled to Roberto Gilbert Elizalde Children’s Hospital in Quayaquil, Ecuador where the team above is pictured.
Seen above are Orthopaedic surgeons, RNs, OR Technologists, Physical Therapists, Clinic Coordinators, a Certified Orthotist and Prosthetist, Interpreters, Anesthesiologists, a Neurosurgeon, an Orthopaedic Resident and Medical Student, a Photographer, Advisors/Team Leaders, an IOM Tech, a PA, a Nurse Practitioner, volunteers, and numerous other specialities, who came together and provided care to the children of Ecuador with musculoskeletal conditions for one week.
In that one week, 17 orthopaedic surgeries were performed. Of those, 5 were spine surgeries and 12 were other surgical procedures. In addition, over 100 spine/orthopaedic patients were seen in clinic and over 200 more were seen by the orthotics and prosthetics team. This work was done by 4o clinical and non-clinical individuals that traveled from 12 different areas of the country, ranging from Salt Lake City, UT to Buffalo, NY.
Fortunately, this medical mission trip was a success. Logistically, a trip such as this one takes extreme time and dedication. Then once in Ecuador, the medical care provided and its facilitation is even more crucial. With only one week at the hospital, each minute spent there is precious. In order for the OR to run smoothly, the clinic has to be running smoothly, and for both of those locations to thrive, the translators need to be present. No matter if you are the lead OR surgeon, the PACU assistant, or the person manning the supply room, each role is connected to the other and contributes greatly to the strength of the team.
Multi-disciplinarity is known as using expertise from multiple disciplines to reach a goal, and that is exactly what PPW has done to achieve such praise over the years; but this year especially. When a group such as this one comes together that is filled with a plethora of knowledge in medicine and other specialties, the outcome to their journey is promising. No one person can do it all, so when a collection of individuals take on specific roles and perform them well, the system will run smooth.
This trip to Ecuador was incredible not only for the strong camaraderie that existed among team members, but between the collaboration between the Doctors, Health Care professionals and staff of PPW with the Ecuadorian medical staff as well. Shown below is a picture of members from both teams posing for a group shot. Throughout the week, the Ecuador staff helped to accommodate the teams’ needs by providing space in the clinic, OR, and a number of other areas throughout the hospital. The Ecuador team assisted in surgeries and worked alongside the PPW team, gaining mentorship to help develop a higher level of care in their general pediatric orthopaedic and spinal deformity programs at their hospital in Quayaquil. Again, multi-disciplinarity was shown in this joining of countries, as PPW brought their expertise to Ecuador to share with fellow health care professionals to aid in the improvement of the hospital and its programs.
Some post-trip feedback from the staff:
“Great comradery, truly a community of well-intentioned professionals dedicated to pediatric care.” – anonymous
“Good communication between team members, detail oriented and well-organized team leaders, good mix of new people and veterans.” – anonymous
“PPW professional staff engaged Ecuadorian staff well compared to previous years.” – anonymous
“This year we have the “dream team” in the OR. Everyone worked great together as a team. Everyone together was able to do multiple things.” – anonymous
PPW Ecuador Spring 2016 Trip was a success. People from all over the U.S. came together and provided excellent care to the children in need, regardless of role or speciality. This multi-disciplinary approach worked, and it is my hope that future trips will run just as smooth.
The American Heritage Medical Dictionary defines it as, “the study of the body’s metabolic response to short-term and long-term physical activity.”
“Exercise” evolved from the Latin term exercitius which means to “drive forth.”
“Physiology” evolved from the Greek term, physiologia which means “the study of.”
The Discipline Itself
In essence, Exercise Physiology is the study of how the body responds to physical activity. Heavily quantitative, it is a discipline that dedicates time to the analysis of human movement through exercise testing. Data gathered from such tests like a VO2 max test are also accompanied by tests such as body composition (by way of skin-folds), flexibility tests conducted by a sit-n-reach test, as well as vertical jump tests, all of which help facilitate proper testing protocol. While Exercise Physiology is primarily quantitative, it incorporates a qualitative approach as well through courses like Exercise and Sport Psychology that study the behaviors of of people and the psychological factors that can influence physical activity and exercise performance. With a multidisciplinary approach, Exercise Physiology educates students and prepares them for professional careers in fitness-related fields by utilizing their knowledge from a variety of disciplines to better the health and performance of individuals. For example, as a strength and conditioning coach with background knowledge in Exercise Psychology and Exercise Prescription, (both areas integrated into Exercise Physiology) they will be able to analyze the psychology of one’s performance while simultaneously prescribing appropriate exercises for that specific individual. The ability to draw from multiple areas within the discipline of Exercise Physiology and utilize that knowledge, makes for a more effective trainer, coach, and fitness-related professional. Exercise Physiology serves as an integral piece to sports medicine as a whole as it provides providers with scientific findings in aiding in rehabilitation practices, disease prevention, and improved health overall.
Here’s a link to one specific exercise test known as a VO2 Max Test that Exercise Physiologist’s utilize when determining cardiorespiratory fitness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2z0l9B6aGE
A Little History…
Dating back around 400 B.C., Hippocrates was one of the first, well-known advocates for moderate exercise. He had followers that supported his theory such as Plato and Aristotle. As word spread, medical texts were written and physician’s began to take a closer look at exercise and the effects it has on the human body as a whole. Later in the 1500s, a Spanish Physician named Cristobal Mendez wrote the first scientific book on physical education which he titled, Book of Bodily Exercise. It encompassed the effects of exercise, the divisions within exercise, common exercises and their level of importance, and the time convenience of exercise and its value.
Centuries later, the term “exercise physiology” was addressed in textbooks alongside the damaging effects that come from the lack of physical activity such as muscle weakness, poor circulation, and potential for disease. Physicians and professors diligently continued their work in uncovering the science behind exercise and as a result, by the end of the 19th century people began to take interest in their personal health more than ever. By 1892, the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University offered a program of anatomy, physiology, and physical training courses. The program consisted of basic science classes, research that studied the effects of exercise on muscular contraction and fatigue, the development of ventilation and lung capacity, reaction time, and even provided students with a summer course to learn how to teach physical exercises.
Over the years and with constant research and publication, Exercise Physiology has become such an expansive discipline that sub-disciplines have emerged as a result. To name a few, some areas of specialization that have formed are Clinical Exercise Physiology and Molecular and Cellular Exercise Physiology.
Exercise and Sport Physiology at PSU
Plymouth State University is home to many excellent programs, one of which is their BS in Exercise and Sport Physiology. A science intensive curriculum, E&SP majors at Plymouth State share classrooms with an average of 20 other students, providing intimate learning opportunities. They gain hands-on experience in laboratory settings and can choose to complete and internship or conduct research as part of their degrees. Some classes that students take within this major are:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Principles and Theories of Strength and Conditioning
- Applied Nutrition
- Exercise and Sport Psychology
- Exercise Prescription
- Resistance Training Techniques
Students from this program become prepared for careers in the fitness industry as well as furthering their education shall they pursue graduate studies. To learn more about Plymouth State and the Exercise and Sport Physiology program, check out this link! https://www.plymouth.edu/department/hhp/degrees-options-minors/bs-exercise-and-sport-physiology/
Want More? Check these out!
Journal of Exercise Physiology
American Society of Exercise Physiologists
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
American Kinesiology Association
American Council on Exercise
I hold myself to a high standard. That became evident a few short weeks ago when I revealed to the Interdisciplinary Studies department my uncertainty about the degree I had been working towards for the past two years. I entered Plymouth State University as an Exercise and Sport Physiology major because of my interest in the human body and my love for exercise. Semesters came and went, but despite my success, I could not piece together the degree and find worth in its entirety.
As I started my upper level courses, my scientific knowledge in exercise and the effects it has the body were solidifying, yet the opportunities to promote such knowledge and guide people to a healthy and active lifestyle were lacking from the program. I thought about my degree and worried that my education was not what I wanted it to be; an education that takes my love of exercise and shares it with others.
What interests me? What can I see myself pursuing after graduation? What do I want to take away from my college experience? What if I am not successful? Those are the questions that I ask myself, questions coming from the high bar of expectation that I have set my standards to. These are the questions that my Interdisciplinary Studies program is going to answer.
By blending health promotion and exercise courses, I have designed a degree that will lead me to post-graduate success. Titled “Applied Exercise and Health Studies,” this degree combines courses in the hard sciences of exercise physiology, along with courses in health promotion such as Promoting Health Across the Lifespan and Health Promotion Planning, and Evaluation. By fusing these disciplines, my education will be more versatile to future areas of employment. I will learn the science behind exercise in addition to the determinants of health from person to person. It is easy to suggest that someone needs to change his or her diet and go to the gym, but without the physiological understanding of the body and the awareness of behavioral factors that influence exercise, suggestions are ineffective. With the knowledge I will gain from both my advanced exercise and health promotion courses, my recommendations will be sounder, supported, and more beneficial.
Exercise and Sport Physiology and Health Promotion are both respected majors at Plymouth State University. They complement each other and include my interests in personal training and health coach advocacy. My Interdisciplinary Studies program serves as a blend of the two, integrating the most attractive educational and experiential components of each.
In every degree, each course serves a pivotal role in the outlined curriculum, making it the best it can be. Unlike most college students, I have chosen to create my own. With that, comes dedicating my time to ensure that each course I have included is appropriate and practical. To start, I have incorporated hard sciences that focus on human movement and the effects that exercise has on the body.
Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II introduced me to the human body’s structure, make-up, and functions. Following my exposure to A&P, I took two courses that explore the muscular components and logic behind human movement. Functional Anatomy (PE 2750) and Kinesiology (PE 3570) are two courses that are embedded into my degree. Functional Anatomy covers the musculoskeletal anatomy during movement–the actions of each muscle, where they insert, originate, and what the effects of muscle movement and orientation are on posture and exercise. Similarly, Kinesiology analyzed anatomical movement, but with an extensive focus on the analysis and biomechanics of human movement in relation to the laws of physics. These courses gave me a better understanding of body mechanics and the ability to recognize correct posture and the actions that facilitate healthy movement. These courses will help me maintain proper body mechanics during my own exercise practices and ensure that the instruction I relay to others is accurate.
The next two courses that I have included take the underlying principles and concepts from Functional Anatomy and Kinesiology and put them into a practical setting. Resistance Training Techniques (PE 2831) and Flex, Core, & Balance (PE 2428) are courses that integrate activity and movement during each class. Flex, Core, & Balance instructs the principles and strategies in functional training for the body with a focus on core stability and strength. Upon completion of the class, I was able to properly analyze and correct myself and other students’ movement and form. Similarly, Resistance Training teaches students proper lifting techniques and how to instruct others in those exercises. Both of these classes are hands-on, providing students with more experience than a lecture-based class. From these classes, I can recognize improper form in a variety of exercise settings and give corrective advice to those errors. As an exercise and health promotion advocate, this understanding is key in ensuring that injury prevention practices are being followed and individuals are maximizing the potential of his or her workout.
A course that will further my knowledge in maximizing workout potential for individuals is Exercise Prescription (PE 4780). This class focuses on the implementation and assessment of exercise programs to both normal, healthy populations, and special populations (obese, children, clinical, etc.) If I want to be an exercise specialist in the future, this course will solidify my ability to create appropriate exercise plans for different populations.
The ability to recognize and accommodate different levels of physical and developmental abilities is a skill that distinguishes an effective trainer, coach, or sports medicine professional from an ineffective one. Motor Learning (PE 3720) is about the theory of learning and performance of motor skills. From it, I learned how to help individuals of all ages retain their motor skills. I put this course in my program because motor learning skills are an important part of effective teaching, training, or aiding in rehabilitation from an injury or impairment.
Oftentimes, it’s not a physical or developmental impairment that prevents people from exercising or making healthy choices, but by a psychological one. In order to understand the differences in exercise and health behaviors from person to person, I plan to take Exercise & Health Psychology (PE 4010). In this class, I will learn how to comprehend the impacts psychological development has on the body and ways to take that information and improve it. The mind is a powerful tool and, as a professional in the fields of fitness and health, uncovering psychological impairments in people can be the key to their success in pursuing a healthy lifestyle.
To strengthen my scientific approach to this degree as well as serving as my QRCO requirement, I took General Chemistry I (CH 2335). I am using this course for my degree because it focuses on chemical concepts and analysis of data. As a four credit class with a lab, I developed the ability to collect, analyze, and showcase my results, a skill that will be helpful in the collection of data in athletes, clients, or programs that can then be evaluated to determine the progress or declination of their respected performance. In addition, this class served as a great foundation to learning about chemical formations and elements that exist our body. The familiarity with chemicals and their formation strengthened my knowledge and aided my performance in other courses.
Physiology of Exercise (PE 3580) is a course that chemistry helped with. It is also a course that helped form my foundation of biochemical knowledge, which I will use in my more advanced exercise courses. It focuses on the functions of the human body during muscular activity and the biochemical changes that occur during exercise. I learned about the benefits of exercise and its effects on a person’s health such as increasing muscle strength and endurance as well as lowering the risk of disease. With a lab component, this class allowed me to use the information I learned in lecture and apply it to a practical setting. Being able to rationalize the importance of exercise can be difficult, but by taking this course, I will be able to support my advice that exercise is a key component to health through science.
Apart from the courses in this degree that are rich in science, I have also included courses that will develop my understanding of health, in general. I will learn about contemporary health issues and how health programs are implemented and promoted in communities.
Wellness Choices for a Healthy, Active Lifestyle (PE 2850) is a strong piece to this degree because it taught me about my own personal wellness and where my strengths and weaknesses lie. From it, I was able to build my knowledge of personal well being by taking a look all the components that constitute a healthy and active lifestyle. Looking at diet and nutrition, addiction, body image, and psychological factors, Wellness Choices informed me about the factors wellness can be influenced by and where my baseline health status lies on the continuum. In order to be an effective advocate for someone else, I must first be informed of my own wellness, and this class provided me with that awareness.
Promoting Health Across the Lifespan (HE 3230) is a course that I will take to strengthen my knowledge of health promotion and examine the factors that influence people’s behaviors towards health. In studying populations across the lifespan, this class will inform me of the social and environmental constituents that affect health choices. I will become more informed within the areas of health education that encompass eating habits, tobacco use, physical activity, and alcohol consumption. By better understanding determinants of health across the entire age spectrum, I will be able to design appropriate programs for individuals in relation to their age. As a health coach, this knowledge is critical to a client’s success.
Another course I plan to take is Stress Management (HE 3200). This course will further my ability to enhance the health and wellness in my own life through stress management practices and techniques. By recognizing the areas in my own life that need attention and experimenting with ways to combat the stress and pressures that arise day-to-day, I can apply my empathy to help others.
Contributing to my degree, I have included Applied Nutrition for Healthy Living (HE 3220). In this class, I learned the basic principles of nutrition and the current issues our society, as a whole, is encountering. I also experimented with food tracking; a practice that I have used since its completion. Food tracking will help me guide others in their eating habits and overall nutrition goals. By understanding good nutrition and a balanced diet, I will be able to help people reach their target or maintenance weight. Living an active and healthy lifestyle requires both physical activity and good nutrition and this class has assisted in the latter.
Regardless of the capacity I choose to work in, being First Aid and CPR/AED certified is logical, especially in health and exercise. This certification is important for the safety of the people I work with and is most often a requirement for a variety of professional certifications like personal training. With that being said, I will take CPR & First Aid Instructor (HE 3600) where I will become trained in teaching others the elements to become certified in first aid and CPR/AED themselves. With this certification and instructor position, I will be qualified to confidently handle medical and emergency situations in my professional field, create a safe and trusting relationship among the people I work and surround myself with, and be able to pass my knowledge of medical intervention down to others, regardless of the environment.
The last class I have integrated into my major is an upper level course that serves as my WRCO and will play a pivotal role in solidifying my degree. Constituting a total of four credits, Health Promotion Planning and Evaluation (HE 3240)will be responsible for providing me with the skills to plan, implement, and evaluate health promotion programs. I will gain experience working with others while developing social skills, an ability that I will need in any professional capacity. This class will teach me how to work in the community, giving me a realistic feel for how health promotion practices are conducted and the challenges of implementing them.
The final component of my Interdisciplinary Studies program is an Internship (HE 4880) related to Applied Exercise and Health Studies. I hope to conduct this at Cioffredi & Associates, The Institute for Health and Human Performance in Lebanon, NH. At Cioffredi & Associates, I will gain experience from their health coaching practices. An experience like this will unify my education and give me a taste of what the work of a professional in my field is like. A soon to be college graduate, an internship at a company such as Cioffredi & Associates will also provide me with the tools to better develop my social skills and interact with professionals one on one. With an Internship like this, I will gain exposure to the work within my area of study, and further more, get a better sense of the profession I want to pursue.
Throughout this process of creating a major from scratch, I have become aware of just how high my expectations are for myself and the aspirations I have for my future. I like to challenge the status quo – this being clear in my recent envelopment in Interdisciplinary Studies. Before IDS, it felt like I was running in place. Fueled by my frustration, I found clarity in seizing the opportunity to remain different and build a degree that morphs my interests into one, cohesive program. My degree in Applied Exercise and Health Studies is interdisciplinary because of the intermingling that exists between my exercise courses and health promotion courses. By molding two disciplines, my effectiveness as a professional in providing services to others will be powerful, and I will surpass the expectations I have set for myself.
You will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think in the back of their mind, “I want to be healthy.” Whether it is in the form of good diet, exercise, maintaining emotional balance, or having a solid social circle, people strive to be the best and happiest version of themselves they can be. The components to “health” are immense, and so to begin my exploration in uncovering its depth, I interviewed Professor Rebecca Busanich, an Assistant Professor of Health Promotion and an Associate Director of the Center for Active Living & Healthy Communities at Plymouth State University.
Dr. Busanich began her educational career at the University of Michigan where she received her BS in Athletic Training. She went on to pursue her Master’s in Human Physiology/Sports Medicine at the University of Oregon, and then her PhD in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Iowa. Her achievements speak for themselves as she has not only studied at the highest level, but also done so throughout many disciplines. With this diverse background, Dr. Busanich has been able to serve Plymouth State and share her knowledge with students through the widespread selection of courses she teaches. These courses include principles of health, exercise and health psychology, sport psychology, qualitative research, applied health promotion and applied nutrition.
Along with her devotion to her students, Dr. Busanich is active in conducting research in her field. When asked about her research activity and if it involved collaboration with others, she replied, “Yes and yes. My research explores the social and cultural narratives around physical activity; eating and the body and I translate my findings to promote healthy/positive eating and physical activity experiences, along with exercise adherence, in underrepresented populations. In exploring these ideas, I draw upon constructionist and critical feminist theories and social ecological frameworks, along with qualitative methodologies (i.e., narrative inquiry, community-based participatory research, ethnography) and innovative visual and creative methods (i.e., photovoice, journaling and visual narrative).” Nothing comes easy with research however, as she relayed that “Most respected work still adheres to traditional positivist assumptions that research needs to be objective and detached to be “valid” – which stands in direct contrast to the cultural and feminist research that I do.”
With every profession there are ups and downs, and for Dr. Busanich her students are the “ups.” When posed with the question of what is most rewarding/her favorite part of her profession, her response was, “My students. Challenging them, learning from them, watching them grow.” It can’t be easy as a professor, to take a classroom(s) of students and be able to conform to all the different learning styles, needs, and passions, it just seems impossible. Professors like Dr. Busanich however, whose work integrates many different pathways, has an advantage over most in her ability to touch on many disciplines, not just one. She stated, “Everything I do is interdisciplinary. My work does not live in any one discipline, but instead crosses several fields (and hopefully serves to bridge those fields). I am part sport psychology, public health, health promotion, exercise science, medicine, cultural studies, and women’s studies.”
Many students are undecided on a career path when they enter college, some have an idea, and some are certain. For those that have at least an idea, declaring a major gives them an outline with all the requirements they need to complete a degree, and potentially pursue more schooling. Having a set schedule can be challenging for students if they possess interests elsewhere, and so when asked what courses she would recommend students take outside of the specific major’s requirements, Dr. Busanich simply explained that it depends on their interests and future career goals. “We try to direct them to take elective courses that fill these needs.”
The advice that Dr. Busanich left me with was, “Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to push outside of your comfort zone. In fact, learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Learn, absorb, listen to those around you, challenge those around you, ask questions (lots of questions), and try to look at things you are interested in from as many different angles/lenses/disciplines as possible. Hang out with people you wouldn’t expect to, those who are different from you. Be grateful for every day you are young and in college – and try not to focus too much on what lies ahead. Don’t be afraid to use your voice and stand for what you believe in. Nothing is impossible – don’t make decisions based on fears or what others say can or can’t be done. Do what you want to do – not what others want you to do.”
“Everything I do is Interdisciplinary.”
“Learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
“Do what you want to do – not what others want you to do.”
Two weeks ago I reevaluated my college education and made the change to become an Interdisciplinary Studies major. It was uncomfortable, but it was what I wanted to do. I’ve since then found clarity in the pursuit with great credit given to Dr. Busanich and her inspiring words. It is my hope that upon graduation, I can embark on a career that serves many populations, interconnects many disciplines, and brings joy and fulfillment to not only the people I work with, but to myself.
Endless thanks to Dr. Busanich for instilling inspiration in my future endeavors and allowing me to see all the interdisciplinary possibilities that exist.
As a junior in college, the world behind the walls of a classroom is terrifying. Without a set career goal upon graduation, the steps and actions I take today, tomorrow, and everyday from here on out, are essential in helping me discover those dreams.
Having been in school since the age of 4, learning has taken a similar approach in each grade. While there is a great difference between high school and college, the approach to learning in a sense, mirrors one another. It was not until I enrolled in Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies, that I immediately became exposed to alternative ways of teaching and learning.
My first exposure was through three different articles that all encompass knowledge gain and how technology can provide every individual with their own domains; that is if we are exposed to it. In Vartan Gregorian’s article, “Colleges Must Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge”, he addresses the disconnect between teachings and the knowledge extracted from those teachings. Instead of consuming knowledge through collaboration, we are programmed by cut and dry principles. As Gregorian states,
“We must create an intellectual climate that encourages faculty members and students to make connections among seemingly disparate disciplines, discoveries, events, and trends — and to build bridges among them that benefit the understanding of us all.”
Aiding in the hunt for knowledge acquisition, Audrey Watters and Andrew Rickard both pose interesting takes on technology and their search for its justification in people’s learning. In Audrey Watters article, “The Web We Need To Give Students“, she promotes how technology and the implementation of blogs or student profiles can ultimately provide students with the capabilities to build themselves as a learner and individual as a whole. She explains that, “having one’s own domain means that students have much more say over what they present to the world, in terms of their public profiles, professional portfolios, and digital identities.” While Watters poses the good intentions that the web can have on students, it is also important to be aware of the concerns it could present.
Although the web can provide students with resources to build themselves a profile filled with achievements, works, and beliefs, there is concern that those individualistic components for each person could be “graded.” Andrew Rickard speaks to this concern in his article, “Do I Own My Domain If You Grade It?” for example, when he says, “The web is a network for conversations, and if students still see their audience as a teacher with a red pen, then nothing changes.” There is a fine line between how far teaching through technology can go and when it begins to degrade the integrity of the student’s beliefs and individualism.
After reading these articles I am pleased and excited to know that schools are looking outside the traditional route of teaching and aiming it more towards a collaborative, self/guided discovery of knowledge. As someone that learns best from experience and trial and error, I am confident that IDS will benefit my growth and learning in more ways than one.