Course examines psychological factors related to exercise

Student exercise in Cornell's Meyer Strength Training Facility

By Janet Garcia ’16

A kinesiology course with an interdisciplinary twist, Professor DeVries’s Exercise Psychology course examined physical activity through the lens of human behavior during Block 3. The class studied both the motives and the consequences of exercise, focusing on changes in behavior, in an attempt to answer the following question: why does everybody know that they’re suppose to be physically active and yet many remain sedentary?

Students read research in this emerging field and drew connections between physical activity and mental health, as well as physical activity and cognitive function. During part of the class teams were assigned a venue and a particular population, and they developed various kinds of interventions for their given group, providing their rationale and acknowledging the limitations.

For instance, fitness for senior citizens will look vastly different than fitness for young graduates who played sports in college. Likewise, different locations (e.g. city vs rural) will impact activity levels and motivations. For example, people from an urban environment may be motivated to ride their bikes because it can also serve a practical function (commuting). Students considered how this broad range of factors interact, taking research and directly applying it to solve everyday problems.

Reflecting on the course, junior Jacob Cuellar said, “I had some basic knowledge of the material based on my own experience exercising and my own observations of others. I previously thought most people needed a lot of help to start exercising. But really the majority have the desire, they just need a targeted push.”