Exercise science lab adjusts so students can still attain crucial competency

As Steve Glass pondered how he could run his exercise science lab for cardiopulmonary rehabilitation during pandemic restrictions, he considered some key factors.

Normally, the very nature of the lab that teaches stress test techniques required people to breathe heavily during exercise, a situation that needed to be restricted at this time, said Glass, professor of exercise science

But he also knew how important it was for the students to attain this important competency as they train for a field where they will help people utilize exercise "as a key therapy to improve the human condition."

Steve Glass talks with a student during a lab.
Steve Glass talks with a student during a lab.

Glass ultimately ended up implementing a number of safety measures that allowed his students to continue their training uninterrupted — and even gave him some ideas for how to run the lab when pandemic restrictions are not in place.

He split lab sections in half to reduce the number of students. Treadmills used for stress testing were kept 10 feet apart with acrylic partitions around each machine to further limit distancing, he said.

Students conducting the testing wore face shields, masks and gloves to take pulses, Glass said. Everything, from equipment to blood pressure cuffs, was continually sanitized.

To reduce expelling of heavy breaths, Glass said he made a switch in the testing protocol to have the warmup count as one of the three stages to be tested, rather than working up to a stage of heavy exercise with huffing and puffing.

The smaller number of students, sanitization practices and other adjustments had advantages, Glass said.

Students work during an exercise science lab class.
Students ready for a stress test in an exercise science lab.
A readout from a stress test.

"From a standpoint of pedagogy, it works well, and from a standpoint of hygiene it works well. Once you get used to masks while doing this, it's just not a bad idea," Glass said. "I like the idea of spraying everything down between classes. There are a few practices I'll keep doing — it's good practice if the students are going to be working in a clinical setting."

Monica Weinrauch, a clinical exercise science major, was relieved to have the opportunity to learn about stress testing through an in-person lab. She said that experience helped her gain confidence in that competency.

"I thought it turned out really well," Weinrauch said. "It was a small class, so (Glass) was able to supervise everything and was always available for questions. I received more attention and direction than I would have in a larger class." 

Monica Weinrauch consults with Steve Glass while a stress test is being conducted.
Monica Weinrauch consults with Steve Glass while a stress test is being conducted.

For Glass, the labs this year were modified than usual, but he said he works to continually refine the experience while also consulting with professionals in the field. Those experts have helped him with updates in technology and other aspects of the profession, helping prepare students for internships and careers.

For those students who aspire to work as a certified clinical exercise physiologist, internships are especially important to help build up the clinical hours necessary for eligibility, Glass said. An exam is also required for certification.

The field provides a fulfilling opportunity to help people from children to cardiac patients become more fit and aware of risk factors that affect their health, Glass said. The profession also allows a chance to meaningfully connect with patients, who all respond differently to their situations, and reassure them on their health journey.

"And then we see how much they changed their lives, with so much progress," Glass said.


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