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En Garde: Battle Your Way to A Healthier Lifestyle

By Maxime Devillaz

The Department of Health, Physical Education & Movement Science will add two new activity courses to their agenda of one-credit classes for the Spring 2015 semester—fencing and Pilates mat.

“We offer many activity courses really for the general population, devoted and directed toward lifetime fitness,” said Dr. Nana Koch, chairperson and associate professor in the department. However, the question remains whether students are aware that these courses exist.

(L): Professor Cary Epstein (R): Dual Health & Physical Education major John Brush
(L): Professor Cary Epstein (R): Dual Health & Physical Education major John Brush

Students already have the opportunity to participate in different activity classes, such as Kung Fu, horseback riding, fitness & conditioning, badminton, and swimming. There is also a two-credit scuba diving course on campus where students can earn a diving certificate. What they all have in common is personal enhancement, increased physical fitness, and in some courses even the socialization factor, Koch says. But it might also enrich your schoolwork. “A lot of research states that more fit students do better in school,” Koch added.

In fact, a vigorous amount of evidence suggests that physical education and better student results correlate, according to a 2011 Illinois Public Health Institute’s report. The research primarily examines cardio-respiratory fitness, which determines how well the body can transport oxygen to the muscles, and the resultant positive effects it has on optimizing tasks, academic achievements, and test performances.

The department’s new courses focus mainly on strength training and cardio fitness. In the Pilates class, students practice on a series of full body conditioning without any equipment, according to instructor Edna Gruvman. The exercise helps boost the core muscles, and the workout is flexible to do individually.

These same principles align with the fencing course. “Fencing is most definitely a cardio workout,” said Enid Friedman, associate professor at Hofstra University and instructor of the new fencing class. “It has been called ‘physical chess,’” Friedman added, describing the sport as a type of intensive dance with fast movement, which integrates body awareness, concentration, and the ability to strategize.

Both courses are only seven weeks long, but they are repeatable for credit. Fencing will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. – 2.55 p.m.

Pilates mat has yet to be determined. The instructors hope the class time will induce a sense of individual continuance after class. “The students can try to bring the alignment principles into their everyday [lives in order] to improve their posture and general well-being,” Gruvman said.

Senior Physical Education major Jonathon Watkin has taken advantage of a handful of theses one-credit courses. “[The classes] were all small with some athletes, but mostly PE and Health students,” Watkin said. “I do think it’s an [important] issue because many people do not know the correct principles of training and fitness, and often disregard physical activity as a core rather than [as] a fun activity for social enjoyment.” Watkin believes the courses should be targeted towards those who are not already informed about health and fitness. “Typically, PE and Health students are knowledgeable in these areas, and understand when and how to train to enhance lifelong fitness.”

Dr. Koch agreed that the flyers all over the Pratt Recreation Center have not been enough to reach the student body as a whole. “It seems to be that so few of the students really know we have anything to offer,” Koch said. She believes this knowledge can be imparted to the general student body if they participate in the new or on-going courses.

“I think that advertising more around campus will encourage friends to join, and hopefully a snowball effect will happen,” Watkin agreed. “Without the knowledge or set of routine on how to stay in shape, many people do not have the motivation to work out or change their health habits.”

There is still time to sign up for these courses for the Spring semester. If interested in learning more about the different options, contact Dr. Nana Koch at

Almost all of the activity courses offered are worth one credit, but most students do not take advantage of physical activity classes; they might find it hard to find room in their packed schedules. Watkin believes that motivation is the key. “Motivation needs to come from within oneself and one’s self-desire to become healthier,” he said. “Students should think of these simple words that Dr. Frank Brady [professor in the Department of Physical Education] once said: ‘aiming to improve cardio-respiratory fitness can’t [ensure additional] years to your life, but it can add life to your years.’”

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