Kinesiology Community Days Aim to Improve Campus Health and Wellness

Kinesiology Community Days

Kinesiology major Michael Hester (right) checks a participant's blood pressure
during a Kinesiology Community Day workshop session

December 18, 2019

“The skills we learn in this class are very beneficial, but aren’t nearly as important as developing the ability to clearly and confidently convey this information to others. For myself, Community Day has played an excellent role in doing just that.” – Kinesiology major Michael Hester

This fall, students enrolled in “KIN 394AI: Applied Kinesiology Concepts to Solve Real World Problems” left the comfort of the classroom and took their training out into the campus community in an effort to improve health and wellness across the university. In the process, they gained valuable hands-on experience in applying a variety of health and fitness concepts they learned over the course of the semester.

The course, taught by Judi LaBranche, a senior instructor in Kinesiology, was designed to bridge the introductory kinesiology courses with upper-level concepts that have a more focused application of physiology, exercise, lifestyle, disease prevention, and health. In particular, coursework concentrated on exercise testing and programming, and on providing opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

“I had the opportunity to really plan out the course content thanks to a Professional Improvement Fellowship I received this spring,” notes LaBranche, who was among the first cohort to receive the fellowship, which relieves senior lecturers of teaching and service duties for a semester to allow them to focus on professional development activities. “KIN 394AI is an integrative experience course, and I wanted to incorporate a sustainable community event in affiliation with it that would foster deeper learning for our students while enriching community relations in the process.”

LaBranche partnered with Workplace Learning & Development (WLD) to bring the “Community Days” to life. WLD enrolled campus employees in the workshop series, which aimed to help employees understand their current health status and offer the means to improve it over the course of three sessions. As part of their community project, Kinesiology students ran the workshops, providing health screenings and information sessions on blood pressure, flexibility, strength, cardiovascular fitness, and personalized exercise programming. Ultimately, the workshop concluded with the students providing “exercise prescriptions” for each of the participants.

“The participants varied considerably in age, abilities, and health status – just like they will in professional settings,” explains LaBranche. “The students provided individual assessments and created interventions at appropriate intensity levels tailored to the individual’s current health.”

“I found this experience to be extremely beneficial,” says Michael Hester, a junior enrolled in the course. “The majority of the curriculum focused on examining case studies and using our knowledge and skills to come up with plans of action for each case. However, while the skills are important, they are useless unless one is actually able to communicate what they have learned with another person. I believe this is exactly what the community day allowed us to do.”

“It was such a great experience,” says Brian Lochner, a workshop participant. “I learned a lot about flexibility and how that will affect me as I age. I learned that it is important to stretch daily to keep my muscles active. The students were all very knowledgeable about what they were teaching. They helped develop a weekly exercise plan that fits me individually. I will be looking to see if they offer this workshop again, or something similar to it.”

“Some of the strength training exercises I was given have already proven beneficial,” adds another participant. “And I enjoyed giving the students an opportunity to actually practice what they have learned.”

“As I sat and spoke with my client everything we had been practicing this semester began to flow very naturally,” adds Hester. “Going into it was a little bit overwhelming, and I was feeling that I might be underqualified. However, once I sat down one on one with the client, I began to realize that the curriculum that Judi put together this semester prepared us extremely well to be able to do just this. I believe that this experience, allowing me to gain real hands-on skills, not only in the course material but also in communication, was one of the most beneficial and positive experiences that I have had in college.”

In the end, LaBranche hopes the workshops fulfilled multiple goals, including better preparing her students to enter the workforce and helping them to make positive contributions to the community.

“I’m hoping that this semester’s Community Days will serve as the foundation for a long-term partnership with our community,” says LaBranche. “While I certainly hope that this coursework will provide a foundation for our students as they embark upon their professional careers, I also hope that we are making an impact on our campus, and increasing the health and wellness for those who live and work in our community.”