This fall, Hope College enters the 39th year of its KIN 140 – Health Dynamics program. This required course, often taken during a student’s freshman year, focuses on various wellness principles, such as exercise, proper diet, and stress management. The two credit course is a staple of Hope’s general education curriculum and involves one hour of lecture and two hours of exercise per week. The type of exercise varies between aerobic (running, walking, swimming), resistance (weight training), flexibility (stretching), and game/recreation-type activities.
Dr. Richard Peterson, the first Health Dynamics program director, stated that the goal of the course was not simply to educate students, but to instill in them an “intrinsic” motivation towards exercise. Nearly forty years later this remains the primary goal of Health Dynamics.
Health Dynamics began in the 1970s in an effort to cultivate a positive attitude towards health and fitness among Hope students. Dr. Richard Peterson, the first Health Dynamics program director, stated that the goal of the course was not simply to educate students, but to instill in them an “intrinsic” motivation towards exercise. Nearly forty years later this remains the primary goal of Health Dynamics.
Health research continues to illustrate the important role exercise plays in the prevention of many chronic diseases. Despite this growing body of research the physical activity (PA) levels of Americans have declined sharply in recent years. Currently, only 20% of Americans are meeting the national PA recommendations. This decline in PA coincides with more and more colleges dropping their physical education requirements. In fact, according to a 2013 study from Oregon State, only 40% of colleges still require a physical education course as part of their degree programs. At Hope, it’s understood that promoting and instilling strong PA habits during these transformative years is critical.
“As educators at a liberal arts college, we recognize the unique ability we have to influence our students’ lives. As such, we believe that Health Dynamics has the capability to increase not just our students’ knowledge, but also their enjoyment of exercise. This is critically important, as both knowledge and enjoyment of exercise are strong predictors of future PA behaviors and adherence.” says Dr. Brian Rider, current director of the health dynamics program at Hope.
In addition, Hope is a Christian college and strongly values its role of educating students within the context of the historic Christian faith. Physical and spiritual wellness, though maybe not demonstrably so, are closely related to one another. Dr. Peterson acknowledged this relationship when he launched the Health Dynamics program thirty-nine years ago:
“I feel one of a Christian’s responsibilities is to be a good steward of what’s been given. The body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, is as much a gift as the life that goes on in it. We’re responsible for the stewardship of that gift.”
According to Dr. Rider, the Health Dynamics program is utilizing new technology and undergoing some exciting changes.
- “We are in the process of creating a stronger online presence. Specifically, we are examining ways that we can transfer our current textbook online and create an interactive space where students are able to better engage with the material. Having our course content accessible online means that we can update materials on a regular basis to keep up with emerging research on nutrition and exercise.”
- Another exciting change is the use of technology to develop a better understanding of the students’ activity habits outside of class. For example, this fall, students from two Health Dynamics classes are wearing pedometers throughout the semester. Pedometers are devices traditionally used for measuring distance traveled via the number of steps an individual takes in a day. “Steps” are a metric used to assess how physically active an individual is and also to prescribe exercise. For example, aiming to hit “10,000 steps/day” is a popular recommendation and equates to traveling roughly 5 miles in a day (2000-2500 steps are in a mile). According to Dr. Rider, the pedometer data will be used in two ways: “One, students will review the activity data to better understand their own PA habits. Then, as a class, they’ll brainstorm possible strategies for increasing their daily PA (e.g. walking to class instead of driving, reducing the time spent indoors watching Netflix, etc.) Second, instructors will have an improved understanding of how our students’ PA changes over time. Ideally, we would like to see students’ PA increase during the semester. However, if this isn’t the case, then we as educators can strategize ways to improve our students’ overall enjoyment of PA in an effort to improve their daily PA.”
- Lastly, says Dr. Rider, “an exciting change we’re enacting this spring, is focusing some of our classes’ activity sessions around a sport and/or activity. Specifically, two Health Dynamics classes will have “theme” activity sessions. One will focus primarily on training for a 5k-road race and another will focus on training for an “adventure-style” race. While each class will continue to cover all core concepts of fitness (strength, cardio, flexibility) the activity sessions will be tailored towards these specific races. This will give students who might be more interested in training for a race or who prefer to run, the opportunity to choose a class that will focus more on their area of PA interest.”
Hope’s steadfast commitment to its students’ well-being is as strong today as it was when the college was founded.
Hope’s steadfast commitment to its students’ well-being is as strong today as it was when the college was founded. It is our desire that every student sees the value in what they’ve learned both inside and outside of the Health Dynamics’ classroom and that this course helps them continue on (or in many cases begin) their own personal journey towards health, wellness, and positive life-long fitness habits. Health Dynamics has been, and will remain, a key component of Hope’s mission of challenging the mind, body and spirit.The kinesiology department and all of the Health Dynamic instructors understand the importance of such a class to Hope College and support / encourage good stewardship of our physical bodies.