Tag: exercise science

Sit or stand? SCOPE research examines sedentary behaviors of older adults at Oak Crest

Marianne Sackett, a resident of Oak Crest, participates in the SCOPE test under the direction of NIU graduate student Josh Pak.

Marianne Sackett, a resident of Oak Crest, participates in the SCOPE test under the direction of NIU graduate student Josh Pak.

Excessive sitting, some say, is the new smoking – in other words, something that insidiously contributes to shortening a lifespan.

Indeed, says Emerson Sebastião, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, at least one decade of research into physical activity behavior shows that “sitting too much is going to be detrimental to your health.”

But what does that mean for elderly people who live in nursing homes or retirement communities, where very little time is spent standing or moving?

Little scholarship on this matter exists on that population, Sebastião says, who are different from their counterparts still living at home in their communities.

“Physical activity is reduced drastically, and the amount of time spent sitting is higher,” Sebastião says. “Someone is going to cook for you. Someone is going to clean for you. Someone is going to do your laundry.”

Residents of DeKalb’s Oak Crest Retirement Center are participating in Sebastião’s current research project to help him understand how sitting impacts their lives and what “interventions” he can develop or suggest to get residents to sit less and move more.

Called “SCOPE” (Sedentary Behavior, COgnition and Physical Function in OldEr Adults Living in a Retirement Community), his work examines how sitting affects not only the physical fitness of the Oak Crest residents but their mental fitness as well.

Tests for physical fitness gauge upper- and lower-body strength, record how many steps they can take in two minutes, county how many times they can stand up from a chair in 30 seconds, assess their gait while walking a straight line for a certain distance and pivoting for a return and how far measure they can lean ahead without losing their balance.

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião

Speed is a critical factor, Sebastião says: People who walk quicker live longer.

Cognition, on the other hand, is evaluated through verbal and visual memory skills. Sebastião recites 16 words to the test subjects and asks to hear them repeated back to him in any order.

Declining memory is something Sebastião understands personally through interactions with his late grandmother. “I would say to her, ‘Grandma, you need to buy your groceries. Grandma, you need to pay your bills. Grandma, you need to clean room.’ ”

When he completes his study – he’s hoping to examine 100 people, and is about three-quarters of the way there – he will have valuable data for the next step.

“I’m trying to establish a connection between scores on these tests and the amount of time residents spend sitting,” he says. “We don’t have any recommendations on how long people should spending sitting to protect them from adverse health outcomes. We don’t have such a thing for older adults.”

Possible “interventions” to help those in need include wearing Fitbits or similar devices that track footsteps, standing or walking around the living room during TV commercials, engaging in exercise that improves cardiorespiratory or muscle fitness or seeking counseling to help them understand the importance of moving more and sitting less.

scope-2Unfortunately, he says, much of physical activity behavior or the lack of it is most likely predetermined by personal habits earlier in life.

Human beings who are physically active and fit in their younger years “are building up a savings account. Their rate of slowing down as they grow older is slower,” Sebastião says. “Those who are active at a young age are more likely to be active in older age.”

Sebastião, who studies elderly and clinical populations by exploring factors that influence physical activity as well as creative ways to promote physical activity among older adults, received a six-month Dean’s Research Grant to conduct his work at Oak Crest.

Two graduate students and one undergraduate student are assisting him.

All will write their own papers; they also will combine to pen a group paper, with Sebastião as lead author, for submission to journals on gerontology and geriatrics. The undergraduate student, meanwhile, will present at the College of Education’s Third Annual Student Research Symposium, scheduled for Friday, April 20.

scope-3“My students are learning important elements within the research process – how to design a study, how to select instruments for data collection, how to collect data,” he says. “They’re also learning how to talk with our participants throughout the testing to provide motivation.”

Josh Pak, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology, is enjoying his chance to work with the senior citizens.

He believes that his collaboration with Sebastião will equip him well in his eventual career, in which he plans to work with elderly adults on cardiac rehabilitation.

“Some have no idea of how to go about fitness. A lot of them just go around their apartments,” says Pak, who is from Arlington Heights, “but a lot of them surprise me with how much they can do. A lot of them love to be active.”



KNPE inks transfer agreement with Rock Valley for Kinesiology

rvcRockford-area students with plans to major in Kinesiology now have another option toward NIU Student Career Success.

NIU’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education has signed a “2+2” agreement with Rock Valley College to provide a smooth transition between its associate degree and our bachelor’s degree.

The agreement helps students to identify relevant and recommended RVC coursework that transfers to NIU.

Future Huskies must complete the Exercise Science option of Rock Valley’s A.A.S. degree in Fitness, Wellness and Sport; with the 2+2 agreement, they are able to earn their NIU bachelor’s degrees within two years.

Chad McEvoy, chair of the NIU department, said that he and his colleagues at both schools saw not only a pressing need but also an exciting opportunity to provide a strong and comprehensive academic experience.

Chad McEvoy

Chad McEvoy

“More students than ever before are choosing to attend community colleges,” McEvoy said.

“But when community college graduates explore how to continue their higher education at a four-year institution, a major challenge is finding a program that will allow them to count their full two years of community college work toward the four-year bachelor’s degree,” he added. “Our partnership delivers a seamless transition.”

Shaine Henert, professor and chair of the RVC Department of Fitness, Wellness and Sport, said he and his Rock Valley colleagues were motivated by two factors.

“We connected with NIU for the high quality of education we think students will receive, not only at NIU in general but in the Exercise Science program, and we wanted to provide a local option. NIU has a well-established and well-respected program,” Henert said.

“Our students who complete the two-year program are essentially completing the first two years of NIU’s four-year program,” he added, “and when they transfer, this will help them complete the four-year degree in four years.”

Meanwhile, Henert said, the 2+2 makes financial sense for his students.

“Bachelor’s degrees definitely increase their earning potential,” he said. “The majority of our students want to continue on. They understand that with a two-year degree, they’re looking at entry-level positions. With a four-year degree, they have a substantially higher median salary.”

Courses taken at Rock Valley include communication; composition; statistics; life science; anatomy and physiology; biochemistry; psychology; sociology of sport; sport and exercise psychology; exercise and sport science; nutrition for fitness and sport; and nutrition, exercise and weight control.

Shaine Henert

Shaine Henert

At NIU, Rock Valley graduates who transfer their credits will enter the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education ready for 300-level courses in the Kinesiology major.

Kinesiology majors explore scientific principles that regulate behavior change and performance, such as physiology, biomechanics, psychology, measurement, gerontology and nutrition, while they engage in a variety of clinical experiences and an industry-related internship.

Graduates are equipped to work in a variety of health, wellness and sport performance settings. Students also can prepare for graduate school in exercise physiology, physical therapy, athletic training and sport and exercise psychology

The kinesiology major received the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Education Recognition Program award for meeting established criteria in strength and conditioning.

For more information, call (815) 753-8285 or email wharris3@niu.edu.



Engage U.S. ready to launch with trip to Olympic City USA

Brandon Male

Brandon Male

All of the world’s eyes – Brandon Male’s included – are on South Korea.

But the instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) is looking at the Winter Olympics through a different lens, one that understands that the games are far more than athletes, medals, national anthems and must-watch TV.

Male is preparing to select and accompany a dozen NIU College of Education students this May to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, also known as Olympic City USA, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Stop One on the trip, coming at the half-way point of the drive, is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where the Engage U.S. students will visit the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory.

It’s among the first ventures of Engage U.S., a new addition to the Educate and Engage Program and tailored for students who are not in teacher-licensure programs. Thanks to generous funding from donors to the college and the department, students selected for the trip will pay almost nothing.

“This is a big opportunity for our Exercise Science and Sport Management students to gain a little insight and to get their own Olympic experience,” Male says. “This is going to be the start of something cool.”

team-usaHuskies chosen for the trip will engage with, and learn from, coaches and other practitioners and administrators who work at the U.S. Olympic headquarters. Male also hopes his travelers will meet current Olympic athletes.

USA Swimming and USA Shooting also house their national headquarters on the complex, which covers 35 acres and can provide housing, dining, training facilities, recreational facilities and other services for more than 500 athletes and coaches at one time.

NIU students will stay in the training center’s dormitories and enjoy use of the fitness facilities and swimming pools, he adds.

Field trips are planned to the Air Force Academy and the headquarters of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

“Colorado Springs is kind of the fitness, strength and conditioning capitol of the United States,” Male says. “It’s kind of like Silicon Valley is for the technology industry.”

KNPE Chair Chad McEvoy was instrumental in bringing Male’s vision to life.

“Dr. McEvoy had a couple contacts there, including a former student who’s moved on to the USA Triathlon. He still knows some folks there, though, and did a little networking, made a few phone calls – business development is his title – and they ate it up,” Male says.

“Every once in a while, the Olympic Training Center has a university tour that comes out, but they’re trying to get more experience with more young people, with more up-and-coming professionals, and they’re really trying to push the Olympics to help grow and cultivate Team USA. They’re very on board. They love the idea.”

Chad McEvoy

Chad McEvoy

“Our Kinesiology program at NIU provides exceptional opportunities for students to pursue their passion for working in fitness and exercise related professions,” McEvoy says. “This Engage U.S. experience with the Olympic Training Center will allow our students to immerse themselves in sport performance at its peak.”

Past the invaluable lessons of the industry lie the kinds of experiences that are only available outside the classroom, Male says, including new skills, greater confidence and the inspiration to “better themselves to become the highest level of professional.”

“I hope these students realize that it’s a big world out there with a lot of really great opportunities. I hope they come back with a more global perspective, and that it’s important to reach out, to make contact with people and to take a chance,” Male says.

“I want them to think about those employers, those graduate schools and those jobs that might seem too good to be true, or too much of a big fish, and to go for it,” he adds. “At its core – at its root – what this is is a networking opportunity, to just go out there and meet people, and this is an opportunity to go out there and meet the best of the best. Who better to talk to you about that than Team USA?”



Exercise Science Club students shine at Abominable Snow Race

Caitlin Paxton (right) and Dave Benner work with a child in the Winners Circle.

Caitlin Paxton (right) and Dave Benner work
with a child in the Winners Circle.

Caitlin Paxton’s journey to the foot of a snowy Lake Geneva mountain drew her into the heart of the Abominable Snow Race.

But amid the frigid cold and friendly competition, the senior from Plano found affirmation of her dream to teach Physical Education to elementary school children.

“I helped with the ‘Little Yeti’ race, which was a kid’s version. It was so fun; they were so cute,” says Paxton, who will begin student-teaching in the fall.

More than 100 children from ages 4 to 12 participated in the Jan. 27 event, she says.

“We had six different obstacles. They had to go and run the obstacles, sled down one hill and run up another, sled down another and run across the finish line. They got medals, just like the adults did,” she says. “I was really surprised. It was cold and slippery, but they were determined to do it.”

Paxton joined a dozen classmates in NIU’s Exercise Science Club in making the trip to “The Midwest’s Premier Winter Obstacle Race,” which each year attracts up to 2,700 runners eager to tap into their “inner Yeti.”

Tony Calderala, an academic advisor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, arranged for the dozen club members to volunteer along the course and in the “Base Camp” area.

exercise-science-club

After arriving Friday evening in Wisconsin and grabbing some dinner, the Huskies made their way to the Grand Geneva Ski Resort to begin assembling their pegboard obstacle, which challenged racers to go up and over in a test of their athleticism.

“Overall, it went pretty well,” Calderala says. “On Race Day, we got there about 6:30 in the morning, set up our last-minute items, helped in the volunteer tents and at the starting line. All of the students were course marshals for the competition heats; if racers failed an obstacle, we took away one of their three wristbands.”

For an hour after the race, he says, NIU’s pegboard proved a popular and favorite attraction. Many of the racers called it “a great way to practice,” he says.

Bill Wolfe tackles NIU’s pegboard.

Bill Wolfe tackles NIU’s pegboard.

“Racers coming off the course wanted to challenge themselves more,” he says. “We had a timing competition – how fast could they do it? Or how many times could they go up and down without touching the ground? Bill Wolfe, the owner of Abominable Snow Race, said, ‘I gotta try it.’ He went for it and did pretty well. We had kids and their parents.”

NIU’s students were able to do some teaching of good race technique – “It’s not all upper-body; it’s about core,” Calderala says – and get first-hand looks at some aspects of sport management.

Among the issues: up-and-down temperatures froze the course overnight from Friday to Saturday; bright sun Saturday morning melted the ice and turned parts of course into mud and slush, snagging ATVs and requiring the distribution of water by foot; some volunteers failed to show.

“We met gym owners and were able to discuss what goes designing these courses: ‘What did you think about when you put it together? Why did you put it together this way?’ They learned that in the construction of these obstacles, they actually think through what this is going to look like and how it’s going to affect an athlete.”

Students also saw some injuries – “ankle sprains, bumps, bruises, nothing serious” – and learned how to help athletes keep going if they need some medical attention.

basecampOwners of the Abominable Snow Race were impressed by NIU’s contributions, which including “filling the void” caused by missing volunteers.

“The feedback from ASR was great,” Calderala says. “They want to do more here at NIU, so we want to see what that looks like and see what we can offer.”