Students Conduct Educational Fitness Program at Area Women’s Shelters

Arnold Health Professions Pavilion at Lebanon Valley College

You don’t need a gym or fancy equipment to exercise. That’s the main point students in LVC’s physical therapy, psychology, and exercise science majors emphasized as part of the educational research program they offered at local women’s shelters during the 2018–19 academic year.

Through the 4-week program, students taught the women about the benefits and guidelines of physical activity, addressed potential barriers to achieving physical activity goals, and shared ways to maintain and increase physical activity safely and enjoyably.

“They welcomed us into their busy schedules, opened up about their stories, and seemed to appreciate the knowledge we shared,” said Abigail Kinneman ’18, D’20, a physical therapy major. “They treated us like professionals, took the program seriously, and seemed to benefit from the education.”

The women received pedometers to track their walking and learned about body weight exercises and chair yoga. At each session, they discussed their activity level from the previous week and their goals for the upcoming week.

The project also included data collection to measure results. Students tracked biometric data, such as body mass index and blood pressure, completion of a 2-minute walk test for physical fitness, and measures of health-related quality of life and mental health.

Results from the pilot session of the project showed a significant decrease of mentally unhealthy days and a slight increase in physical performance as measured by walking distance.

“I’ve designed research projects that addressed adversity in various settings during my time at LVC. However, there are only so many things you can accomplish by analyzing academic journal articles and building strategic plans,” said Justin Lytle ’20, a psychology major. “In this project, I experienced the reality of testing wellness-based interventions and could see failures and successes as the project came to fruition.”

While the students provided the instruction and analysis to supplement their classroom learning, they gained other valuable insight into the benefits of helping others.

“My participation in this project renewed my belief that giving back and altruism will continue to be an important part of my life,” said Hayley McGlory ’18, D’20, a physical therapy major. “It also showed me that in the future, there are many ways to mix physical therapy with volunteerism.”

The faculty supervising the project, Dr. Tonya Miller, assistant professor of physical therapy, Dr. Jenna Marx, assistant professor of psychology, and Dr. Lori Thomas, assistant professor of exercise science, plan to continue the project. They also hope to add at least one more shelter to those they serve, allowing additional students the hands-on experience.