What is exercise physiology (EP)? It is a specialization within the field of kinesiology. Kinesiology, literally defined, is the study of human movement. Put simply, exercise physiologists help people become their best physical selves. These medical technicians study the body’s responses to movement as well as how the body adapts to physical activity over time. James Vogelsang, Cooper Clinic Exercise Physiologist, shares insight on his profession and what you could expect from a Cooper Clinic preventive medical exam.

At the heart of the Cooper Clinic preventive medical exam, the treadmill stress test measures patients’ fitness levels, identifies their heart’s functional capacity and determines their personal risks of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack. During this portion of the exam, the EP monitors the patient’s resting heart rate (before the treadmill stress test), maximum heart rate, fitness level, EKG (electrocardiogram) and recovery heart rate (post-treadmill stress test). Before beginning the treadmill stress test, the EP asks you about your exercise habits:

  • How often do you exercise and for how long?
  • What kind of exercises are you doing?
  • How do you feel after you work out?

The goal in asking these questions is for the EP to notice any need for improvement or adjustment. If no signs of abnormalities are present in the pre-test screening, and the EP has the doctor’s approval, they proceed with the treadmill stress test. The stress test typically involves the patient walking or running on a treadmill while their blood pressure and heart rate is monitored. Once the test is complete, the EP focuses on bringing the patient’s heart rate down to normal with a 10-minute cool down.

In the 1960s, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, along with future space shuttle astronaut Dr. William Thornton, developed the technology for NASA to accurately monitor EKGs on astronauts. This technology helped lead to the development of treadmill stress testing used as a diagnostic tool to detect early signs of coronary heart disease. Dr. Cooper was the first physician in Dallas to begin using the stress test. While the medical equipment is more advanced, this same testing is used by the EPs today.

During their time with the patients, EPs educate them on the importance of moving more and moving well and provide support and encouragement to help patients improve their quality and quantity of life. The EPs develop a personalized, balanced exercise plan per the ACSM guidelines for each patient based on their target heart range for exercise.

Vogelsang shares common myths patients believe about being physically fit:

  1. You can out-train a bad diet.
  2. Lifting weights makes you bulky.
  3. You can target fat loss with the right exercises.
  4. Stretching isn’t important after a workout.

Each of these statements is false. Out-training a bad diet is not realistic. Staying physically fit requires you to make conscious decisions about food and exercise most days of the week. Vogelsang says a healthy balance of strength training, resistance training, cardio, flexibility and mobility training during the week along with a healthy diet is most effective for weight loss. To develop an eating plan customized to your health and fitness goals, visit Cooper Clinic Nutrition.

No scientific proof shows you can target fat loss in specific areas of your body. For example, “if you do 50 crunches a day, that doesn’t guarantee you will achieve abdominal definition. For most people, the mid-section is the last place fat comes off,” Vogelsang says.

Working on one’s flexibility and mobility are often overlooked when trying to maintain physical fitness. For flexibility, it is important to stretch before and after your workout to reduce any tension or strain on muscles and joints and increase blood circulation and range of motion. Foam rolling improves muscle quality and mobility by encouraging the muscles to relax.

Some exercises you can do at home to improve your physical fitness involve zero equipment. Vogelsang recommends the following three exercises as a foundation for any workout routine. Perform three sets of 15 reps for each exercise and rest 1-2 minutes in between sets.  

  1. Push-ups. After you warm up and stretch, start with push-ups. You get the most out of your push-ups if you keep the movement slow and controlled.
  2. Squats. Next are squats. It’s important to keep your chest up, hips back and drive your weight to your heels. Also remember to keep a soft bend in your knees—do not lock them.
  3. Shoulder retraction. The last exercise is shoulder retraction. Lie face down on the ground, palms facing the ceiling and slowly lift your chest while imagining you are squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades.

Vogelsang holds a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology with a focus in applied exercise physiology from Texas A&M University. He has always been interested in sports and exercise and was an EMT before joining the Cooper Clinic team in 2013.

To find out more about how you can stay physically fit and receive preventive care, visit cooper-clinic.com to schedule your Cooper Clinic preventive medical exam.