Kent State Students Help Community Members Improve Their Health and Fitness
Elizabeth Michel, a Kent State University graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in exercise physiology, has gained much – both professionally and personally – through her experience working on the Fit for Life Workshop.
“It always brings me great joy whenever I can help others along their journey to leading a healthier, happier life,” said Michel, a native of Carrollton, Ohio. “I love working with so many amazing individuals, and the camaraderie and motivation I see in my classes are truly inspiring.”
Engaging in Exercise
Michel is one of 100 Kent State students who have been involved in Fit for Life, a one-credit workshop that is open to the Kent State community, offering a cost-efficient program for students, Kent State employees and their family members, as well as the general public. The program was developed to engage the Kent State community in supervised exercise to foster physical activity, raise self-efficacy of exercise and improve health-related variables. The program also engages exercise science and physiology undergraduate and graduate students, like Michel, who assist in leading the program. The students gain valuable knowledge and experience by leading exercise classes and working to improve adults’ fitness.
Michel has been involved in the Fit for Life Workshop since it began in the summer of 2013, first assisting with the pretesting and posttesting of participants and now regularly teaching a cardio kickboxing class. When the program first started, it was called the Faculty/Staff Exercise Program, and it was organized and implemented by Ellen Glickman, Ph.D., professor and coordinator of exercise physiology and exercise science at Kent State, with the help of the Division of Human Resources. Worksite health promotion and exercise programs, like the Fit for Life, serve as a promising strategy to improve physical activity behavior and muscular fitness because of the convenience of being offered at a work location. In the fall of 2015, the program was reorganized to the Fit for Life Workshop to be a more inclusive.
With research showing the many health benefits regular physical activity and exercise engagement offer, Michel feels the Fit for Life Workshop is very important.
“Fit for Life is important because it provides an opportunity for people to exercise in a program designed to work around their busy schedules and with workout regimens that cater to their specific needs,” she said. “This program offers multiple types of workouts so everyone can find at least one exercise format that they like.”
The next offering of this workshop is a 10-week session from June 13-Aug. 19 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6-7 a.m., 12-1 p.m., and 5:30-6:30 p.m. During the fall and spring semesters, Fit for Life is a 16-week workshop, offered on the same dates and times. Classes such as boot camp, weight training, jogging and walking, cardio-dance, aqua aerobics and independent exercise are offered. Participants of the program self-select into which class he or she desires for the hour duration of time. Each session begins with a five-minute group warm-up, followed by the 55-minute exercise session in the class of their choice. Each class is led by an exercise science undergraduate or graduate student.
At the beginning of the semester, pretesting is conducted by the students of the program. Fitness-related variables such as heart rate, blood pressure, body composition, 12-minute run/walk test, pushup, situp and flexibility tests are assessed. Additionally, questionnaires assessing participants’ sleep quality, work performance and other psychometric traits are completed voluntarily by participants. As a result, the students gain research experience from collecting the participants’ data, entering the data, analyzing the statistics and creating posters for regional and national presentations, as well as writing manuscripts to disseminate the findings.
“Overall, this workshop is advantageous for students, faculty, staff, employees’ family members and the Kent State community,” Glickman said. “Participants are learning transferable exercise skills while improving their physical activity and fitness as are they are coached by future exercise professionals, who are gaining vital experience for their future careers. Physical activity competitions and incentives have been implemented throughout semesters of this program, which leads to a fun, team-building environment with friendly competitions.”
Since the summer of 2013, this program has had more than 350 faculty and staff participants. There have been three manuscripts accepted by reputable peer-reviewed journals in the field of exercise science, 10 posters created and presented at regional and national conferences, and one dissertation written from the results of this program. A current dissertation also is being conducted with the program.
Prioritizing Health and Wellness
Glickman said she looks forward to further partnering with the Division of Human Resources and the Division of Student Affairs as the university continues to offer opportunities for students to gain valuable experiences outside of the classroom and puts a focus on becoming a healthy campus by prioritizing the health and wellness of students, faculty and staff.
“The future of this workshop is bright in that there is much opportunity for growth in the number of participants in the program and their health, and students’ experience and knowledge,” she said. “This workshop, undeniably, facilitates a campus community between faculty, staff, and students, where all parties grow from each other.”
For Michel, she said she is looking forward to assisting this summer.
“Whenever I hear people talk about how much they love the program and my classes, it makes me feel like I’m making a positive impact on someone else’s life,” Michel said. “I always look forward to seeing the regular patrons that attend, and I enjoy constantly getting to meet new people.”