James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.


Step Inside Human Performance Lab

November 27, 2007
By: Amanda Rivera

PHOTO: Students in HAP labWhen you’re struggling up the hill toward ISAT with a backpack full of books, do you ever wonder how many calories you’re burning on your walk to class?  Dr. David Wenos, Director of the Health Sciences Human Performance Lab, knows. When Dr. Wenos joined the Health Sciences department almost ten years ago, the Health Assessment and Promotion concentration included a skin fold caliber and a tape measure.  As one of his first projects, Dr. Wenos was asked to help expand the program to include a lab.  Fast forward to 2007, the Human Performance lab now contains a sophisticated medley of equipment overwhelming to the untrained eye.   “The lab serves a three-fold purpose: it serves as a training center for the students to get a lot of technical hands-on experience…it serves as a research [facility] where we can collaborate with all kinds of people [and] it serves as a service to the community,” explains Dr. Wenos.

PHOTO: Students in HAP labAs a primary academic hub for students in the Health Assessment and Promotion concentration, the Human Performance Lab trains them to “develop and implement comprehensive health promotion activities using health education, assessment techniques and fitness concepts.”   A crucial part of these activities include conducting twenty or more assessments on a client they are assigned for the year and then developing a wellness plan to integrate their findings.  With assessments ranging from blood pressure to bone density, students are required to display competency before bringing their clients in.  Dr. Wenos says, “Over the years, we’ve probably done over two hundred people.  At the beginning [when] we would recruit people, it was generally faculty and they were generally a healthy bunch.  But as the years have gone on, I have recruited from the community and people that we get now tend to have a little more involvement and they do have some risk factors and it makes it a little more interesting for the students to try to put together the information and present it.”  During the summer, students are asked to bring their skills to a clinical setting.  ”We also require practicums and internships so that they can get a little more hands-on experience and it’s not unusual when they bring their portfolio with them that people think, ‘Wow, that’s more than we did in graduate school,’” he says.

PHOTO: Students in HAP labHealth Assessment and Promotion students also work with local grade schools.  At Keister Elementary, JMU students obtained the resting heart rates of all 450 of the study body and then developed a chart to display a target heart rate zone for each age.  “They [the elementary students] soon learned that if they stood in line their heart rate would start to drop, so the physical education teachers were noticing that the kids in line would jog in place so that their heart rate would stay in the zone…That was a great teaching tool for the kids and the physical education teachers soon discovered which activities seemed to keep [them] in the target heart rate zone,” says Dr. Wenos.  At another local school, a basic assessment was taken of each child in the 4th grade.  The Lab Director says, “What we found was that a large percentage of them were overweight so we put together a report for the school, the principal and for the physical education teachers to say here is what the profile of a 4th grader looks like and they were of course surprised to see what they saw.” 

PHOTO: Students in HAP lab Attempting to instill this same concern for a healthy lifestyle in the JMU community, Dr. Wenos and several ISAT and Computer Science students used the lab’s portable metabolic unit to develop an energy expenditure map of campus, known as the X-Map.  Using this creation as a template, Dr. Wenos is now working with a group to develop a newer and improved version called the Duke Quest.  The Duke Quest will display a digitized version of campus and offer several hundred routes throughout campus.   “The collaboration is wonderful because what’s so great about this college is I can walk across the hall and there’s someone in Computer Science, there’s someone in Geography that can add crucial pieces to this project,” says Dr. Wenos.  This collaboration has extended beyond the X-Map, with the Health Sciences professor conducting numerous research studies with other CISAT faculty.  One such project explored an energy expenditure disparity between the use of poles and the absence of poles in hiking.  While they did not discover a difference in energy expenditure, the study revealed that the use of poles resulted in burning fat, while those without poles burned carbohydrates. 

Through the Human Performance Lab, Dr. Wenos is able to meet multiple goals, offering the students hands-on experience through the use of health promotion within the community and directed research.   “I think what I’m trying to help students understand is that I can teach everybody to do the assessments, but without understanding why you’re doing it, why you’re using this particular assessment, it’s just going to be a number,” he says.  This is a concept that has also been relayed to participating members of the community.  Dr. Wenos states, “People that regularly pay attention have a better chance to change, make a decision to change their lifestyle, be more active, look at what they eat a little more seriously and our clients are examples of that.”