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Carol Kennedy-Armbruster
Department of Kinesiology

Tracy James
University Communications

Lisa Sexauer
U.S. Navy

Last modified: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

U.S. Navy, Indiana University team up for fitness initiative

Sept. 21, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The U.S. Navy and Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation have teamed up again to provide specialized fitness programs for Navy active duty personnel who are 40 or older.

The fitness specialists -- some of whom are HPER grads who have left private sector jobs -- have promising statistics to show for their work, but the stats deal with health improvements, not sales figures, as often expected in the private sector.

The men and women who participated in the initial two years of Senior Health Assessment Program Enterprise (SHAPE) saw significant improvements in strength, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and blood pressure. On average, body mass indexes for the sailors dropped by .96 points and more importantly, their body age decreased by 2.9 years.

The fitness specialists, hired by the School of HPER for the Navy, will again live on Navy sites at Pearl Harbor, San Diego and Norfolk, Va. Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, principal investigator of the service contract for IU, said the fitness specialists create individualized eight- to 12-week programs for each participating sailor and phase them into weekly sessions, group exercise classes and maintenance programs that they manage on their own.


An IU fitness specialist works with a SHAPE participant at the San Diego Naval Base.

SHAPE gives the fitness professionals a unique kind of work experience. Instead of selling their skills and knowledge, which is often part of private sector positions, they can focus on helping the sailors and developing effective programs. This year, for example, they will include a functional fitness element to their work.

The fitness specialists have bachelor's degrees and several also have master's degree; some are alums of the School of HPER's fitness specialist bachelor's degree program, one of the few such four-year degree programs in the country.

"These kids are givers. They want to help people. They don't want to go out and sell it," Kennedy-Armbruster said.

She described the program as a model for workplace wellness programs, which are becoming more popular as a means to control escalating employee healthcare costs. Kennedy-Armbruster expects to see more companies investing in workplace wellness programs to enhance the readiness of their workforce.

"The Navy is a model for this because it has been willing to invest in SHAPE and other wellness initiatives," she said.

Kennedy-Armbruster is pleased with the statistics that show improved fitness among participating sailors. Her favorite stat involves body age, which unlike chronological age, is based on a combination of fitness measures, such as BMI, body composition, blood pressure, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and strength. She also likes hearing anecdotal stories about sailors having more stamina and energy.

"The program changes their whole physique so they basically are younger," she said. "That's what this program is about for me. It's about enhancing their quality of life, giving them more energy."

More information about SHAPE can be found at

For more information, contact Kennedy-Armbruster at 812-855-6083 and

About the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation

Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER) encompasses a broad spectrum of academic interests and professional fields. HPER offers nearly 50 undergraduate and advanced degree programs through its departments of Applied Health Science, Kinesiology and Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies. To further its health and wellness initiative, Campus Recreational Sports provides sport and fitness services for the IU community and the public. More information can be found at