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A Perfect Fit

After five years and a pandemic, WU Moves still going strong

WU Moves student and client

(WU Moves student intern Jessica Rubio works with a client during a session. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
By Chris Marshall

One of the most important parts of maintaining fitness is making healthy choices a habit. Since its 2016 inception, WU Moves, a wellness program for senior citizens and low-income individuals in the community, enjoyed the consistent momentum necessary to gain staying power at Washburn University.

The initiative began as a trial run, led by Park Lockwood, lead researcher and professor, kinesiology; Roy Wohl, chair and professor, kinesiology; and Kathy Ure, C.O.A.C.H. director and lecturer, School of Nursing. Student workers and interns instruct classes, provide guidance for living a healthy lifestyle and measure the progress of members.

By any metric – client satisfaction, participation rates, improved fitness – the model has exceeded Lockwood’s expectations.

“I had no idea people would be this interested or it would be this beneficial,” Lockwood said. “I also didn’t know how healthy people would get. When you actually look at the database and see improvements in blood glucose, fitness, blood pressure, strength and the ability to do functional exercises like picking up things and climbing stairs, it’s made a world of difference. That makes the faculty and students feel good about what they’re doing.”

The program that specializes in physical assessments was given a gut check of its own when COVID-19 brought in-person workouts to a halt. If anything, the pandemic served as a reminder of how necessary the service is to the Washburn and Topeka communities. After a brief pause in services in spring 2020, WU Moves began offering online instruction for clients that summer and gradually welcomed participants back to the gym as vaccines became widespread. By the end of the academic year, most of the 200 clients were back to full-fledged activity.

“We really saw it all happen in a short time,” Lockwood said. “People did less during COVID, then we watched many of them come back in and redevelop their health and fitness, and you could really see differences in three to five months as they returned.”

WU Moves averaged about 85 visitors per week in July 2021, and Lockwood expects that number to climb closer to 110. The program has been operating at maximum capacity for years, with an ever-growing wait list, both because of its popularity and because WU Moves only has so much staff and space at its disposal. Lockwood hopes to hire a student for a managerial position to help handle demand.

“We benefit from having so many different departments provide so many skills,” said Lockwood, who has employed student workers with majors including kinesiology, nursing, allied health, social work and psychology.

Students are relied upon for many day-to-day responsibilities, but in some ways, they see the most gains. The experience developing nutritional and exercise plans, leading classes and working with clients one-on-one is invaluable preparation for entering the workforce.

“I want to be a physical therapist, and this is a great way to use what I’ve learned in my classes,” said Madison Lysaught, a senior exercise rehab science major who teaches a low-impact class. “We all work with clients individually, usually one or two at a time, and we get experience using the latest equipment and exercise strategies. It feels good making an impact, doing something they want to come back to enjoy. I love the people I work with and I’ll miss them when I’m not here anymore.”

For Virgi Scardanzan, bs ’21, WU Moves provides training she otherwise would have a hard time finding. After working in the program while an undergraduate kinesiology major, the Italy native returned to WU Moves as she pursues her master of business administration degree.

“I’m an international student, and my visa doesn’t allow me to work off campus,” said Scardanzan, who is also an All-American pole vaulter and Academic All-American on the track and field team. “Working at WU Moves is incredible because it gives me experience in the field I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.”

Some clients benefit so much, they phase out of the program and maintain fitness on their own. Similarly, there’s a growing number of student workers who, after graduating from the University and WU Moves, take what they learn and apply it off campus.

“I don’t know how many emails I’ve gotten from people who are going to physical therapy school or graduate school or occupational therapy school, saying thanks for everything, especially for this program,” Lockwood said, “It greatly helped them to work with people and build their knowledge as they begin new careers.”

Spring 2022 The Ichabod cover. Sculpture on the lawn north of Memorial Union

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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