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.