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Carol Kennedy-Armbruster
Department of Kinesiology

Michelle Miller
Department of Kinesiology

Lisa Sexauer
U.S. Navy

Tracy James
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008

U.S. Navy, Indiana University team up to improve sailors' fitness

Sept. 8, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The U.S. Navy and Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation have entered into a unique partnership to implement a new program designed to help sailors get into better shape. The new fitness program is a pilot project which targets active duty service members 40 years of age and older and will launch at four navy installations.


Pictured, from left to right: Nick Walker and Kirby Sims (bottom row); Rusty Early, HPER Dean Robert M. Goodman, Sarah Shipe (middle row); Brad Roberts, Michelle Miller, Carol Kennedy-Armbruster and Heather Koontz.

Print-Quality Photo

As part of a service contract awarded by the Navy, six fitness professionals -- five of whom earned fitness specialist bachelor's degrees from the School of HPER -- report for duty today (Sept. 8) to naval bases at Pearl Harbor, San Diego and Norfolk, Va. For the young 20-somethings, moving onto naval bases is an unexpected but very welcome career opportunity, particularly since the Navy might hire them after their one-year tour of duty.

"To be able to give back is an awesome thing," said Rusty Early, who is moving to San Diego. Early, like some of the other fitness specialists, said he has friends or acquaintances who have served in Iraq.

Besides an adventurous streak, the fitness professionals have an educational background in exercise science. The School of HPER's fitness specialist bachelor's degree program is one of the few such four-year degree programs in the country. The fitness experts say they are looking forward to incorporating what they learned about exercise science and fitness management as they implement the SHAPE program. SHAPE stands for Senior Health Assessment Program Enterprise and will be designed to help sailors 40 years-of-age and over prepare specifically for their Physical Readiness Tests, as well as other health-related goals.

"Fitness is about healthy lifestyles, not body image or trying to achieve the impossible," said Sarah Shipe, who is heading to Hawaii. "We want the sailors to have healthier lifestyles and to pass the PRT."

The service contract was awarded to Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, who is the principle investigator, with Michelle Miller, coordinator of the fitness specialist bachelor's degree program, also being included in the contract. Both are lecturers within the School of HPER's Department of Kinesiology.

They say the contract is an example of a real world "give-and-take" that's critical to the success of the 4-year-old degree program. It shows how the program's curriculum and standards have real-world applications, while Miller and Kennedy-Armbruster also learn what the real world needs and expects. The Navy Fitness Program, for example, plans to use a body age assessment system in this pilot program. The equipment examines various measures of health, such as body composition and strength, to calculate "physical age," as opposed to chronological age, and then it offers suggestions for improvements.

"I think we might need to buy one of those," Kennedy-Armbruster said. "We're finding out what the real world is doing and bringing that in for our students to learn."

Surprisingly, the military is seeing an increase in active duty members contending with weight control issues, paralleling increases in civilian communities. While the SHAPE program is geared toward the 40-plus population, the fitness professionals say they think their future customers will set a good example for the other sailors and the new program should complement other Navy recreational and fitness programs. The SHAPE program is a pilot project that will be replicated on other naval bases if successful.

The other four fitness professionals are Nick Walker, who is heading to San Diego; Brad Roberts, who is heading to Norfolk; Heather Koontz, who is heading to Hawaii; and Kirby Sims, who is heading to Norfolk.

Kennedy-Armbruster can be reached at 812-855-6083 and Miller can be reached at 812-855-8167 and