Faculty exercise program fosters healthy lifestyles


Photo by Bob Christy.

Matthew Merchant

A Kent State exercise program is back on the books after years without funding. The Faculty/Staff Exercise Program, overseen by professor Ellen Glickman, recently began its second session this year is continuing to change lives.

“The program is designed to enhance the well-being of the faculty and staff,” said Glickman, coordinator of the program. “Exercise is proven to improve cognitive functions and surveys say consistently that the participants feel better and look better.”

Three days a week, more than 100 members of the faculty and staff from across campus meet in the Gym Annex to participate in various exercises. Ranging in difficulty from walking and running, to Zumba dancing, boot camp and weight-lifting, the program offers a range of activities for those participating.

The Faculty/Staff Exercise Program originally began nearly 40 years ago thanks to Lawrence Golding, the university’s director of the applied physiology research lab during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, according to his vitae.

Glickman said she gave a new life to Golding’s exercise regiment. She met with Kimberly Hauge, human resources communications and project manager and exercise physiology graduate Kylene Peroutky to design the university’s updated program.

Designed to assist the staff members who have health-related issues, including high blood pressure, arthritis or surgically repaired knees, the program is structured in a way that allows each individual to choose his or her own course. It is open to any staff member who would like to participate.

Participants have the option to get health vitals each week, recorded by graduate students for data entry. Results will be published at the end of the session once the graduate students and Glickman have analyzed them.

“Each week, twice a week, we take blood pressure levels and weight,” said exercise physiology graduate Mallory Kobak, who is also an instructor for the program. Overall weight has decreased, she said, as well as muscular endurance.

“The best part about the program is the camaraderie,” said Kobak. “Especially at 6 in the morning. It helps us stay fresh.”

Kobak said she believes the most important aspect of the program is that it teaches the basic concepts of physical fitness, which Barbara Tyner, accounting specialist for the College of Nursing, appreciates.

“It’s nice to see people like me,” Tyner said. “We’re all middle-aged, and we’re all struggling. We need to get up and exercise. We know we do. We’ve all been told we need to exercise. And we’re all like, ‘How are we going to do this?”

Tyner had rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure. She said her eyes were swollen and red before she began the program in July.

“I was in so much trouble a year ago. I was worried about my health. I thought I was going to go blind. I had been to eight doctors, and every doctor I saw told me I needed to exercise,” she said.

Glickman sent emails to staff members across the campus, recruiting them into the pilot session in July. Tyner’s doctor said she “had to do it.” At first it was hard to get up at 6 a.m., she said, but after awhile it got easier.

“I love it. It’s like I can’t wait to get there. If I’m not there, Dr. Glickman checks on me. They take a personal interest in me,” Tyner said. “They actually care about you. They want you to be there. They want to see your results. They want to see you get better and stronger.”

Approximately 20 undergraduate- and graduate-level students are involved with the program. Exercise science major Shelley Jackson is completing an internship under Glickman and using her participation as an individual investigation.

“I think it’s great that they’re offering this to faculty and staff because I know how hard it is to work and find time for exercise,” Jackson said. “And it gives the opportunity for grad students and undergrads to get involved and meet more people to help them out.”

Jackson teaches the Zumba dance classes and helps with pre- and post-testing of flexibly and strength tests. She has seen both physical and emotional results in the participants.

“It’s really boosted a lot of self-confidence within the faculty and staff,” Jackson said. “I think it’s been a good stress reducer and it has helped them find a release during their day, something they can look forward to. They have fun doing it and look forward to coming over here.”

Some of the participants were wary of having students being involved, especially those who with serious health-related issues.

“I kind of felt like I was going to be a lab rat,” said Rebecca Morsefield, lifespan development and education science lecturer. “I thought it was going to be hard for me to get started because of chronic pain.”

She said once she got there, the students were encouraging and kept a close eye on all of the participants.

The program is already producing results, Glickman said. But the statistical results aren’t the only things that matter. If she can improve the health and life of just one person, she said, she feels that the program is working.

“You have to have the right motivators behind you,” Tyner said of the program. “You have to have people who care, and that’s what this program is, it’s people who care for your health.”

Matthew Merchant is the ethnic affairs and education reporter for the Daily Kent Stater.