Amy Coenen, a senior in kinesiology and health, plays ball with a young boy in the Forker gym during an ExerCYse Time event. The events provide indoor play during cold months. Photo by Ryan Riley.

ExerCYse is Medicine provides high-impact service learning experiences

An Iowa State University program is giving Cyclones ample opportunities for service learning — and making a big impact on healthful habits.

ExerCYse is Medicine, a kinesiology outreach program and recognized student organization, encourages regular physical activity and promotes its health benefits. The program is officially recognized by the American College of Sports Medicine.

“We’re super passionate about health promotion in communities,” said Katy Southard, a doctoral student in kinesiology who serves as a public relations chair for ExerCYse.

During the winter months, the group runs ExerCYSe Time events in the Forker Building gym. The events give kids a safe and fun environment to play coordinated games with an experienced staff of undergraduate students.

The program shifts in the summer to the Verb Summer Scorecard program, a free community-based physical activity program. A partnership with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee brings student-athletes to volunteer at many of the events.

Greg Welk, a Barbara E. Forker Professor in Kinesiology, said he believes the program has positive effects not only for participants, but also for Iowa Staters. The program leverages student leaders to organize and administer the outreach events.

“There’s a strong partnership with the community, individual sponsors, and families,” Welk said. “We have a program where students get credit for being a leader. They enroll in a service learning course (KIN 391) called service learning leadership experience.”

Ashley Ebelsheiser, a senior in kinesiology and health, serves this year as ExerCYse is Medicine student president.

“Being in kinesiology’s community and public health option, I know that wellness and exercise can do so much,” she said. “It’s important to get that habit in children.”

A new peer education program called CYdekicks will pair incoming freshmen with junior and senior undergraduate students who trained as health coaches. Iowa State’s Wellness Works team is a partner in the new program.

Additionally, a new ExerCYse is Medicine Week celebration, held in early October during Exercise is Medicine Month, gave students an opportunity to promote the message about the benefits of exercise across campus.

Jessica Erbst, a senior in dietetics who spearheaded the event, said she believes it’s important to share the group’s message.

“Exercise isn’t just about your physical appearance,” she said. “It’s about how you feel.”

For Matthew Eaton, a junior in kinesiology and health, it was the perfect way to have additional engagement through the ExerCYse is Medicine group.

“It’s great to have a club in your field of study,” Eaton said. “And, I complete service hours for my fraternity, so it works well.”