Exercise Science Lab makes impact at UMO

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When Dr. Mark Deaton, associate professor of exercise science at University of Mount Olive, was hired in 2013, it became his mission to establish an exercise science lab on campus.

He envisioned a lab that would not only serve the needs of the university’s program majors, but one that would also assist in athletic testing for coaches; and become a community outreach for fitness, nutrition and human assessment.

“A lab facility with human assessment equipment is vital to the existence of an exercise science program.” Deaton said. “Students are expected to graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities of resting and exercise assessments. They must demonstrate a high level of understanding for national certifications, clinical internships, specialized graduate programs and future employers. 

“The experiential, hands-on learning that takes place in a laboratory setting where students learn by doing is unparalleled to any classroom lecture. Also, for an exercise science program to become nationally accredited they must have and utilize a laboratory facility.”

In 2017, Deaton’s dream became a reality when UMO opened its Exercise Science Lab in an office near campus. This summer, the lab was relocated to Laughinghouse Hall on the university campus. The new, expanded space offers more room to house and operate a variety of equipment.  

According to Deaton, all exercise science students utilize the lab early in their academic career. 

“In the field training course, students participate in basic hands-on experiential learning that will aid them in future courses and their career,” he said.  “Upper-level students conduct various labs in the facility including Wingate (Anaerobic) testing, VO2 assessments for health and performance and various biomechanical experiments.”  

Deaton indicated additional human assessments performed in the lab include heart rate, blood pressure, girth measurements, body composition, lower-body flexibility, hand-grip strength, body mass index, oxygen saturation, pulmonary function testing (age 6 to adult), lower body anaerobic power, cardiovascular function (both resting and exercise), maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 Max) and stress-testing 12-lead ECG.  “We have observed students coming by the lab, outside of their class time, to work on their skills and abilities, and even to prepare for future certifications,” Deaton said.  

The lab’s most recent purchase is the COSMED Quark Metabolic Cart (designed for evaluation of the cardiovascular system) and Trackmaster Medical Treadmill. 

The Quark is programed with various assessment protocols, and controls the speed and grade of the treadmill. 

“You will not find this high-performance equipment anywhere else within a 60-mile radius,” Deaton said.   

According to Deaton, exercise science careers require graduates to have human assessment knowledge, skills, and abilities. He noted that some clinical settings also require previous exposure to 12-lead ECGs. 

“Our students complete an extensive online course on ECG interpretation and demonstrate the ability to connect a subject to the equipment and provide immediate feedback,” he said. “Other settings require graduates to perform initial assessments and write exercise prescriptions to improve a client’s performance/health.”

Deaton noted that based on feedback from the university’s exercise science alumni, the training they receive in the lab, has made a tremendous impact in their ability to obtain and excel in their chosen career paths.  

“We have many successful graduates of our program working throughout the US and beyond,” Deaton shared.  “I recently corresponded with one of our graduates who works with the USA Track and Field team. Another of our alumni works in a cardiac rehabilitation unit in Mebane.

“And, to show how far our reach is, we have an alumnus who operates his own fitness business in southeastern Australia. We also have many students that are accepted into graduate programs around the globe in the areas of physical therapy, sports psychology, kinesiology, etc.”

As for the future of the UMO Exercise Science Lab, Deaton and his colleagues are still dreaming and advocating for expansion and collaboration.  

“I would love for the lab to become an integral component between the athletic department and the academic world of exercise science,” he said.  “There is also opportunity for cross-disciplinary research in areas such as psychology. The sky really is the limit.”

For more information about the University of Mount Olive’s Exercise Science program, contact Mark Deaton at Mdeaton@umo.edu.

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