Olympic fever was everywhere this past summer—and the School of Kinesiology was no exception, with four connections to the Summer Olympics in London. Alumni representing the School were former Gopher star and current Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen (B.S., sport management, 2004); triple jumper Amanda Smock (Ph.D., exercise physiology, 2010); and Olympic Committee Member Angela Ruggiero (M.Ed., applied kinesiology, 2010). In addition, Roberto Sobalvarro, instructor for PE 1031 Sabre Fencing and PE 1033 Foil Fencing in the School of Kinesiology, was the head coach of the bronze-medal-winning Women's Epee U.S. Olympic Team. Whalen also brought home a medal as the U.S. women's basketball team won its fifth-straight gold.
December 2012 Archives
The physical and health education programs, along with the developmental/adapted physical education (DAPE) and the coaching certification program, make up the KinTeach graduate program. This program includes both initial and additional licensure programs for individuals with bachelor's degrees who want to become licensed teachers. These graduate-level programs provide rigorous, professional teacher preparation in accordance with the Minnesota Standards for Effective Practice for Teachers and the Content Standards adopted by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. KinTeach students enter a 12-15 month program integrating educational theory with classroom practice. An extended student teaching experience in local districts creates a strong experiential base on which to apply the principles and methods learned in University classes. An important advantage of this program is its cohort nature. Students are accepted into the program as a single cohort each year, beginning classes in June and continuing through June, July, or August of the following year (depending on individual course loads throughout the year). Throughout their student teaching, pre-service teachers work closely with experienced teachers, observing firsthand the daily rewards and challenges of the profession. After completing a total of 30 semester credits that can be applied to the M.Ed. degree, students are awarded the M.Ed. degree in applied kinesiology. The KinTeach program has a reputation of excellence and is respected by our many local districts that host our student teachers. The rigorous nature of the program consistently graduates teachers who are adaptive thinkers and who are prepared to face the challenges of all populations in our schools.
"Our societal struggle with obesity is a very complicated problem to solve--one that is not as simple as eating less and exercising more," said Matt Vollum, KinTeach Program Coordinator. "There are varied subjects that are involved in aiding our obesity problem, including physiology, nutrition, psychology, sociology, family, environment and community. Our graduates seek out positions where they can have an impact on all of these areas, thus making a strong impact on our youth."
Dr. Chelsey Thul is a "double Gopher," having received both her masters (2008) and her Ph.D. (2012) from the School of Kinesiology. Over the course of her career, Thul has developed a unique and specialized research agenda, combining public health, sport psychology, and prevention science. Her dissertation in particular explores how Somali females use and conceptualize physical activity spaces.
The impetus for her dissertation project stemmed from a 2008 study with her adviser Dr. Nicole LaVoi. The purpose of this study was to explore Somali and Ethiopian adolescent females' experiences with and beliefs about physical activity, and their suggestions for promoting active living. The data showed that the girls faced many barriers that impeded their physical activity participation. To overcome barriers, the girls suggested that a culturally relevant, female-only physical activity program be developed.
According to the girls' wishes, in 2008 the Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports (G.I.R.L.S.) program was created for primarily Somali adolescent and young adult females, and implemented at the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Thul had many roles in the program, as a participant, a volunteer, an observer, and a consultant. It was in these roles that she noticed the gym and other physical activity spaces in the neighborhood appeared to be contested spaces wherein "real and symbolic boundaries have been drawn to limit access." She observed the usage and conceptualization of physical activity spaces were affected by the intersection of gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and cultural markers of identity.
Thus, the purpose of Thul's dissertation study was to explore Somali G.I.R.L.S. participants' experiences with, and perceptions of, the intersection of the markers of identity and perceived, conceived, and lived physical activity spaces in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, and to understand the implications for locating and implementing future programming. Data collection included a quantitative participatory mapping activity (n = 30) to assess perceived space and focus groups (n= 27) to explore the intersection of the identity constructs within conceived and lived spaces.
The overarching finding of Thul's research was that physical activity spaces for Somali females are contested terrain. Perceived space mapping trends indicated the Brian Coyle Center was the most desired physical activity space, males had more access to physical activity spaces than females, indoor physical activity spaces were perceived as more relevant than outdoor ones, and females perceived low accessibility to physical activity spaces. Conceived space themes suggested an intersection of identity markers influenced a variety of gender ideologies and expectations of females, social constructions of femininity, cultural and religious beliefs and tensions, and ethnic Somali cultural norms. Together the perceived space, conceived space, and identity markers impacted an array of lived space perceptions and experiences regarding a lack of freedom, gender spatial inequality, surveillance tensions, familiarity tensions, inclusivity tensions, accessibility, and strategies for change. The complex findings suggest multi-systemic efforts are essential for achieving spatial equality for G.I.R.L.S. participants.
The School of Kinesiology is home to 10 labs and centers, including two new centers in 2012. Dr. Zan Gao's Physical Activity Epidemiology Laboratory (EPI) and Dr. Diane Wiese-Bjornstal's Sports Medicine Psychology Lab (SMPL) joined the School's renowned docket of research centers. Gao's lab focuses on improving the health of Americans through empirical research with the innovative focus on exergaming--using video games in physical activity interventions. The SMPL studies the psychological and social factors that relate to physical activity injury risk, response and recovery, such as the emotional responses of runners to pain.
The Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology (LIHP), directed by Associate Professor Don Dengel, is located in Mariucci Arena on the U of MN's East Bank. The focus of the LIHP is to examine the effects of various diseases (cancer, obesity, etc.) and treatments (aerobic exercise, weight loss, medication, etc.) on peripheral, cardiac and cerebral vascular systems in an integrative approach. To measure the human body in an integrative approach, the lab uses many state of the art techniques--some of which were developed or adapted in house. The LIHP works closely with the University of Minnesota's Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Human Performance Core and Densitometry Services, which is also directed by Dengel.
The lab currently has six active grants, including a nearly $100,000 NFL Charities Medical Research Grant to support the project, "Effects of Multiple Sports-Related Concussions on Neurocognition and Cerebral Vascular Function."
Dengel is one of the pioneers in determining vascular function via ultrasound imaging of the brachial and carotid arteries as well as the abdominal aorta in children and cancer survivors. The LIHP works with a variety of researchers in the United States and Europe on improving and advancing vascular imaging to analyze cardiovascular health.
Working with collaborators from the University of Minnesota Center for Magnetic Resonance Research and the University of Toronto Hospital, Dengel has begun to measure cerebral vascular function using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This new MRI technique has allowed the LIHP to conduct a series of studies examining the effects of obesity, multiple concussions and chemotherapy on cerebral vascular function and neurocognition in a variety of populations.
The lab is also working with GE Healthcare and the Green Bay Packers to determine the effects of body composition and abdominal fat, as measured using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, on athletic performance and overall health. The LIHP also houses metabolic gas analyzers that measure oxygen uptake. The analyzers are involved in a number of studies examining standing desks, and exercise equipment for the disabled on cardiorespiratory system. The LIHP collaborates with a number of researchers at the University of Minnesota in departments such as Pediatrics, Epidemiology, Preventive Cardiology, Oncology, as well as researchers in the University of Minnesota Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Under the direction of Professor Jürgen Konczak, the main research goal of the HSCL is to understand how the human brain controls movement. To do this, the lab focuses on both the development and changing of motor function across the lifespan, as well as the etiology and mechanisms of neurological disease that affect the motor system. In the past, much of the lab's work has centered around the development of proprioceptive and motor function in infants and children and how these functions change over time. The other focus of the lab is centered around how these proprioceptive and motor functions are altered in patients with neurological disease, specifically those with dysfunctions of the cerebellum and basal ganglia.
In order to accomplish this, a wide variety of techniques are used to quantify proprioceptive and motor function, including neuropsychological, psychophysical, electrophysiological, and biomechanical recordings, as well as system modeling (neural networks) and brain imaging techniques.
"Results of our studies provide knowledge about the state of "normal" motor development and function as you age," said Konczak. "These studies also provide clinic relevance to practitioners about the motor deficits of disease and the impact of current treatments on motor and proprioceptive function as well as contribute to the current knowledge about the etiology of these disorders."
The HSCL is a state-of-the-art facility of approximately 180 square meters (2000 square ft) of total space housing two large laboratory rooms, a movement physiology lab space that is mostly devoted to the analysis of arm and hand function, and the motion capture lab which is equipped to study gait and posture. The movement physiology lab space includes a portable three-camera motion capture system, a motor driven passive motion apparatus used to investigate the motion or position sense of the forearm (i.e., how precise does someone perceive forearm motion or a change in its position) and a bimanual arm apparatus used for measuring passive and active forearm motion and position sense. An eight-channel vibration system is available to alter sensory feedback of the muscle and tendons, as well as a 12-channel biopack system used to record grip force, joint angles, and muscle activity. The space also includes an eye tracker system that allows for the precise recordings of eye movements.
The motion capture lab space includes a 12-camera motion capture system with an embedded force platform to record human motion. The setup is suited to assess gait, standing balance and all forms of free, whole-body motion within a 8 x 3m (24 x 9ft) space. A wireless 8-channel electromyographic recording system (EMG) is available to obtain data of the underlying muscle activation patterns during motion.
Earlier this fall, Beth Lewis, associate professor in the School of Kinesiology, was awarded a Research Project Grant (R01) by the National Institute of Mental Health. This four-year, $1.46 million grant, "Effect of Exercise and Wellness Interventions on Preventing Postpartum Depression," is aimed at examining the efficacy of exercise and wellness/support interventions for preventing postpartum depression, which affects approximately 10-13% of women.
This is the largest single grant awarded to a School of Kinesiology faculty member while at the University of Minnesota since 2005.
"Becoming a mother is an incredible but overwhelming experience," said Lewis. "We hope that our research can significantly help mothers by providing non-pharmacological strategies, such as exercise, that can prevent and/or treat the depressive symptoms that commonly accompany the postpartum phase."
In general, Lewis examines how exercise influences mental health among adults. Her research group specifically focuses on conducting randomized controlled trials examining the efficacy of exercise interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental disorders among adults. The exercise interventions are designed to help sedentary adults increase their activity level using theory-based strategies such as goal setting, self-monitoring exercise, and increasing enjoyment of exercise. Because there are many barriers associated with face-to-face interventions including time, cost, and childcare, Lewis typically delivers non-face-to-face interventions.
As an example, Lewis recently completed a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health examining the effect of telephone-based exercise and wellness interventions on preventing postpartum depression. The telephone-based exercise sessions in this study were designed to motivate the postpartum mothers to increase their exercise, while the telephone-based wellness sessions addressed issues related to health and wellness (e.g., managing stress, improving sleep). This research also examined the mechanisms (e.g., rewarding yourself, making a commitment) that play an important role for increasing exercise. For example, research indicates that social support is important for exercise promotion, especially among postpartum mothers. Social support refers to the support received from a significant other or friend that helps the individual increase their exercise. Therefore, this research study examined if social support is a mediating variable accounting for the increase in exercise as a result of the intervention. One in four adults suffer from some form of a mental disorder each year, and exercise interventions have the potential to make a significant impact on adult mental health.