Written by Jory Gomes ’18
“It’s more than just a college-level gym class” lamented Michael Barber ‘19, citing the misconceptions many people have about the study of exercise science. Barber goes further in saying that at the heart of the field, there is a common theme—science. At Hiram, students take classes such as applied biomechanics and exercise physiology which delve into the analysis of the human body, how it functions as a mechanical system, and how exercise changes the physiology of all major organ systems. This type of heavy reliance on the sciences helps Professor Michael Rebold, Ph.D, Department Chair, Program Director, and Assistant Professor of Integrative Science at Hiram, engage his students in discussions about the wide-ranging applications of exercise science. In fact, all students contacted for this article, Barber, Alina Mille ‘18, and Rebecca Fisher ‘18, cited the application of the scientific knowledge around exercise as their favorite parts of Dr. Rebold’s courses. Reflecting on these discussions, Barber said “as a society we like to immediately think of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 70s and 80s, and this not only prevents us from seeing the value of exercise science, but the possibility of its applications.”
All three students mentioned VO2max testing as the most interesting thing they have learned thus far. This test looks at how effectively our body uses oxygen at maximal exercise. Expanding further on the applications of this test, and exercise science as a whole, Mille and Fisher cited the improvement of personal wellness, sports performance, and overall health outcomes through different types of exercise as some of the most interesting applications. Barber mentioned the raging obesity epidemic, patterned sports injuries, health behavior, and disease prevention as the most exciting applications of their studies. It is clear after discussing with these impassioned students that they are well prepared to not only work within, but define, the future of exercise.
On the future, all three students were excited to talk about where they will be taking their knowledge after they leave Hiram. Mille will be pursuing a Doctorate of Physical Therapy, Fisher is deciding between going a similar route or going for a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, and Barber is planning on pursuing a Doctor of Chiropractic Degree to become a licensed chiropractor. Dr. Rebold, who holds a Ph.D. from Kent State University, mentioned these programs, as well as many others, when discussing where students of his will go after graduation. He stated that “in general, when students in our program find a job, they will be working with a variety of populations such as athletes, special populations, those diagnosed with a variety of diseases and/or disorders, healthy adults, older adults, or even pediatrics.” He aims to prepare students for graduation by making them proficient in their ability to complete assessments, prescribe exercise programs, and work on changing behaviors with myriad populations in a professional setting.
Hiram’s new Exercise Science Lab has been pivotal to Dr. Rebold’s instruction. On this, he said that “we have equipment in there that can assess your aerobic fitness, the amount of muscle and fat mass that you have, the electrical activity of the heart, force production, rate of fatigue in the muscles, balance capabilities, and more.” We eventually want to open the lab up to the whole campus. We want our students to conduct assessments on athletes, non-student athletes, faculty, staff, and the community.” This type of experiential learning will go a long way in preparing students to solve real-world problems and become experts in their chosen fields.