Effect of a one-semester conditioning class on physiological characteristics of college students

Long-term exercise is known to have beneficial effects on the health of adults. Some college “activity” courses are designed to give participants exposure to, and practice with, safe exercise techniques. Whether these 1-semester courses, usually 12-14 weeks, are adequate to alter physiological characteristics, such as blood pressure or strength, has not been established. Therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to evaluate physiological and performance measures in college students to determine whether changes would result after 14 weeks of a general conditioning activity course. This study involved 79 students from several sections of exercise and conditioning classes at the university. Classes included a variety of fitness- and strength-oriented exercises. Physiological and performance measurements were collected in weeks 2 (before test) and 14 (after test), and compared pre with post using paired t-tests subject to Bonferroni correction (significant p < 0.0055). There were significant improvements in resting heart rate (HR) (73 vs. 70 b·min, p < 0.002), hand grip strength (250 vs. 272 N, p < 0.001), push-ups (29 vs 37, p < 0.001), sit-ups (32 vs. 35, p < 0.001), and step test HR recovery (122 vs. 110 b·min, p < 0.001). Systolic and diastolic blood pressures, body weight, and percent body fat did not change.

These results indicate that 14 weeks of regular exercise in an organized college-based activity class can result in significant improvements in some measures of fitness and strength in college-aged participants.