Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The new fitness center at Indiana University Kokomo is much more than an exercise gym — it's also a place to build mental muscle and career skills.

IUKL0523Dave Hancock instructs his exercise science class.

Rachel Pace, a senior exercise and sports science major, said using the center's resources will make her more marketable.

"Having class in the fitness center lets us go out and apply what we're learning in the classroom, with real experiences," Pace said. "I'm going to be a better coach and trainer because of this opportunity."

David Hancock, assistant professor of health sciences, teaches class in the Cole Fitness Center, using a classroom tailor-made to enhance the campus's allied health programs. Students use the center itself as their laboratory, where they experience what they learn from books, lectures, and other activities.

"We can teach these classes in a regular classroom, but when we try some of the exercises, we would have to move outside," he said. "Now, we can just go into the fitness center, or use one of the group instruction rooms."

John Hughey, chairperson of the Division of Allied Health Sciences, said in addition to providing health and wellness benefits, the fitness center will impact students academically.

"Our idea is to conduct all of our health, exercise, nutrition, and sports-related courses in a place that provides students with a continual reminder of these themes," he said. "We were able to expand our course offerings, and our faculty can demonstrate different aspects of a subject immediately after classroom discussion. It also gives our student holistic connections with their subject material."

On a particular day, Hancock's introduction to exercise science students learn about how high intensity interval training can enhance mood, as part of a study of what a sports psychologist might do.

In the group fitness instruction room, he leads them through an exercise program designed for elementary school children. The students, dressed in fitness clothes, stretch up and then down, run in place, jump and squat, and do scissors jumps. Then, they return to their classroom to fill out a mood assessment questionnaire.

"This could be done in a regular classroom with children, but for bigger bodies, it's not as effective in that kind of space," Hancock said. "We're out in the fitness center all the time."

Matthew Sturgch, a freshman health sciences major, plans to be a physical education teacher, and maybe a strength and conditioning coach for college and professional athletes.

"It's a big plus to have this fitness center, and to have our classes in it," he said. "It helps us study and gets us more involved with our learning."

Warren Sims, a freshman sports and exercise science major from Kokomo, said having class in the fitness center will help him learn better.

"You can actually have hands-on experience, rather than reading about it in a book," he said. "It gives you a chance to try things, to be sure that sports and exercise is really what you want to do."

Hancock noted that the classroom also is a good place for group activities, with tables and chairs on wheels that can be moved around, and tables that easily tilt up to go in the storage area. His sports psychology class has already moved the tables out to try progressive relaxation techniques, when they needed room to be on the floor.

"They've pretty much thought of everything when designing this room," Hancock said.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.