Movement science professor starts fitness orb wave

Courtesy Photo / News and Information
John Kilbourne , professor of movement science, teaches a class in which students sit on exercise balls. His innovative research, like the benefits of using exercise balls, led to Kilbournes nomination for Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year.

Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Courtesy Photo / News and Information John Kilbourne , professor of movement science, teaches a class in which students sit on exercise balls. His innovative research, like the benefits of using exercise balls, led to Kilbourne’s nomination for Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year.

Anya Zentmeyer

Faculty and staff at Grand Valley State University are bouncing, balancing and getting a workout, all while they teach and learn.

An increasing number of faculty members are replacing their standard desk chairs with fitness and exercise balls in a movement that professor John Kilbourne of movement science calls “activity permissible” teaching.

“I’m getting calls from all over campus,” Kilbourne said. “I think it’s just the change, especially for people that are at a desk all day like many of our (clerical, office and technical staff members) and secretaries.”

Kilbourne first introduced the fitness balls to GVSU after he read an article about a woman in Western Michigan who used them to help her students who had Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder refocus their learning.

From the Office of the Provost to the Facilities Services Department, Kilbourne said he has received more calls and e-mails each day from faculty and staff members asking where they can buy the exercise balls.

Christopher Jeffries, the master plumber for the Allendale Campus, is among those who made the call and liked the results.

“I feel more awake while sitting at my desk, and it does seem to help my posture and lower back pain,” Jeffries said after one week of fitness ball use.

Although many pioneers of the exercise balls still spend time switching back and forth, Jeffries said he has committed to the new lifestyle.

“All I can say is if you’re looking for a new way to sit at your desk, I would give the ball a try,” he said. “I use it 100 percent of the time.”

Used intermittently throughout the day, Kilbourne said exercise balls do not only help with posture and balance but can make users more mentally fit as well.

“You’re physically more engaged, and according to new research, the more you are engaged physically, the more you are mentally,” he said.

Kilbourne said an active lifestyle is key, so he and a team of other professors in the Department of Movement Science and faculty and staff in Human Resources are calling for a change in curriculum.

Conditioning, Activities, Body Mechanics and Dynamics are existing courses in the GVSU curriculum that Kilbourne said the group would like to refocus into a course with a simpler title: Health and Wellness.

In an article Kilbourne published in the MAHPERD Journal, he wrote that almost 70 percent of universities do not require students to have a single course in health, wellness or physical education. The survey polled one public college or university from each of the 50 states.

“Personally I find it absolutely absurd that the undergraduates take just about everything but a course that deals with health and wellness and physical activity,” Kilbourne said. “It’s not forcing them, but now at least they have an option.”

The new course would satisfy the socio-behavioral category of the general education requirements and would be comprised of a two-credit hour lecture with a co-requisite physical activity class taken alongside it.

The course, which has just cleared the movement sciences department curriculum committee, will now be passed up to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences committee before seeking final approval from the undergraduate curriculum committee.

Course content will include an overview of current topics and health and wellness, including the psychological aspects.

“We have to take care of ourselves,” Kilbourne said. “We can’t have a healthy mind without a healthy body – they have to work together.”

Lindsey Des Armo, health and wellness coordinator, said a course that details health and wellness is particularly important at a liberal arts school like GVSU.

“It is important to understand many interests and experience exposure to a variety of areas and topics,” Des Armo said. “One topic that no one can escape is health. Any profession, any expertise, any skill or talent will require good health or positive management of healthy living skills.”

Kilbourne said the course will help students see the interrelationships between physical activity, fitness and health. According to Kilbourne’s study, America ranks 25th in the world for life expectancy. In other words, Kilbourne said the current generation might be the first in history to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

Kilbourne said he wants his students to know the facts so they can make a change.

“I think it makes a strong statement that we are really concerned about our students being healthy as they move through this journey and beyond,” Kilbourne said. “We’re not doing a very good job (educating students) before college, so we better do it sometime.”

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