March 8, 2018
Purdue students get hands-on experience as exercise professionals while earning their degree
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Students enrolled in Purdue’s health and kinesiology program are getting a head start on their careers by designing and implementing fitness programs for fellow Boilermakers and others in the West Lafayette area.
“Careers in strength and conditioning or sports performance is a goal for a lot of the students,” said Clinical Assistant Professor Cassandra Ledman, who leads the class. “But many other students are planning to attend professional school for things like physical or occupational therapy or to be a physician assistant, and this experience enables them to build skills working with an average ‘healthier’ adult population first.”
In the Health and Kinesiology 318 (HK318) class, which is offered though the College of Health and Human Sciences, students are paired with students in the university’s physical education skills classes and then spend the semester working to improve their health. While Ledman oversees and evaluates the plans and progress over 12 weeks, it is the students themselves who handle the details and “heavy lifting” so to speak.
“Coming in, I was a little intimidated,” said Daniel Powers, a junior in applied exercise and health, who is acting as the instructor to a freshman who is a member of the Purdue wrestling team. “This person came in knowing the exercises and he wanted to learn new ones. So, I really had to dig deep into my program to find new ways to help him advance in his sport.”
Overcoming those types of challenges is a large part of what makes this program so important. While a fellow student acting as a training client could make for an awkward moment or two, it helps the instructing student sharpen leadership and teaching skills that they will need post-graduation.
“This is no different than the challenging dynamics they will face with clients in the real world, such as having a client who is a CEO that was coerced by his doctor to sign-up for an exercise program,” Ledman said. “I have to remind them sometimes, ‘You are the expert, you have the experience.’ They need to learn the personality of the person they’re working with, build a relationship and rapport”
The one-on-one training is only part of the HK318 curriculum, students also are required to lead group exercise and fitness classes with PES students and Silver Sneaker groups from the area, a task that forces them to not only exercise as they instruct, but also to motivate and lead in a different way.
“The dynamic is different from one-on-one to one-on-twenty,” said Ledman. “They’re generally more geared to the one-on-one than the group setting, but then they surprise themselves. If they choose a class style that matches their personality and what they’re passionate about, it shows.”
Powers, who plans on becoming a physician assistant, said he initially preferred the personal training situations, but has seen growth after being forced to act as a leader of a larger group.
“This class has given me a lot of confidence,” he said. “Having face-to-face interactions with different people from different demographics has really helped me.”
The instruction has also helped those who are exercising in each class. Ledman reports several success stories, including one diabetic student who lost significant weight and improved their blood sugar levels.
“This class really is a great opportunity for students to apply their knowledge, enhance their skills and engage in service learning and leadership,” Ledman said. “The HK students will then be able to sharpen their skills and work with more advanced clinical populations, and the PES students, or clients as we refer to them, will have built a foundation of knowledge about exercise and health that will hopefully transpire into a lifelong healthy habit.”
Writer: Tim Doty, 765-496-2571, email@example.com
Source: Cassandra Ledman, 765-494-3159, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to Journalists: Media are welcome to attend teaching sessions Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Contact Tim Doty to schedule 765-496-2571, email@example.com