BCU professor says demand for fitness professionals is high | Siouxland life

SIOUX CITY — Want to become a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, exercise physiologist, or athletic trainer?

Fitness-related careers like these are in high demand, according to George Panzak, associate professor at Briar Cliff University, who also chairs the kinesiology department at Sioux City College.

“There’s a big demand now for people,” he said. “A lot of research is being done on fitness and on cancer and chronic disease, as well as quality of life issues and the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and reducing obesity.”

Panzak said students interested in this field have plenty of options at Briar Cliff when it comes to choosing a major. He said it’s rare for a small school like Briar Cliff to have a kinesiology department. Kinesiology is the scientific study of the movement of the human body. According to Panzak, kinesiology comprises five main disciplines: exercise physiology, biomechanics, neurophysiology, motor learning, motor control, and motor development.

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Students interested in kinesiology could pursue studies in human performance, previously in kinesiology and human performance, or in exercise physiology.

A human performance major could work in the areas of wellness, personal training, coaching, or strength and conditioning, or seek a master’s degree in coaching, strength and conditioning, or health promotion. A major in exercise physiology could go into BCU’s physical therapy doctoral program. Panzak said an exercise physiology major could also pursue a career in occupational therapy, get a doctorate in kinesiology or exercise physiology, or go to medical, osteopathy or dental school.

“If they want to do clinical work, they can do cardiac rehab, become clinical exercise physiologists,” he said. “The Human Performance major allows students to get started in these very popular careers.”

Panzak said the main difference between the two majors is that human performance requires at least one semester of biology and chemistry and, possibly, physics, while exercise physiology has two semesters each of biology, of chemistry and physics. He noted that Briar Cliff’s program is “adaptable” to match student interests and that students can spend time with a professional in their career field or of their choice during an off-campus internship.

“I base our department and our career paths and our majors to try to accommodate any variation of students that come in,” said Panzak, who said the majority of students pursuing these majors are student-athletes. “Whatever their interests, I try to support their interests.

Taking courses in math, including algebra, as well as anatomy, physiology and biology in high school, Panzak said, will provide students with a “good foundation” for majors in human performance and physiology of the exercise.

While there’s no licensing process to become a personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, or clinical exercise physiologist, Panzak said there are solid certifications. He said Briar Cliff is aligned with the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Philosophically, Panzak said there was no difference between prescribing exercise and prescribing medication. Professionals prescribing exercise should be aware of their clients’ comorbidities, such as diabetes and heart failure, and seek to do no harm.

“If you look in the scientific literature, way beyond surgery and medication, properly prescribed exercise is hands down the No. 1 treatment,” he said.

Next fall, Panzak said students will once again have the opportunity to major in health and physical education. He said the major is coming back through a joint effort between Briar Cliff’s education and kinesiology departments.

“I really think they’re worth their weight in gold,” Panzak said of the PE teachers. “They work with kids at a very young age – movement, fitness. The idea is to embrace physical activity as a lifelong lifestyle activity.”

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