Wednesday June 7, 2006

Fit for the Job

UD's new Fitness Assessment Center offers full package of tools to test human performance.

A space-age-looking capsule called the BOD POD is one of the star attractions of the University of Dayton’s new Fitness Assessment Center, which is poised to become the only place in the Dayton area offering a full package of human performance testing.

“We can offer a whole palette of fitness tests for everybody from high school wrestlers to new exercisers to marathoners,” said Lloyd Laubach, professor of health and sport science at the University of Dayton.

The BOD POD measures body composition by using air displacement technology and is based on the same principles as hydrostatic weighing — known as the “dunk tank.” The BOD POD is much more accurate than more commonly used tools, such as the Body Mass Index, waist circumference measurements, and skin-fold or caliper testing.

“The BOD POD is very precise and measures within plus or minus 2 percent how much of body composition is fat and how much is lean,” Laubach said.

Those measurements, when compared to national norms, can help customize a fitness program. When combined with information about other risk factors, they also can estimate an individual’s risk for developing obesity-associated diseases. Developed with grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and used by sports teams, the U.S. Army, hospitals and universities, the BOD POD can accommodate everyone from young children to sumo wrestlers.

Yet when it comes to measuring human performance, the BOD POD is just one of the available tools at the Fitness Assessment Center, which will share space and equipment with the new doctoral program in physical therapy.

For example, one tool measures oxygen consumed and carbon dioxide produced to assess an individual’s aerobic capacity and metabolic rates, an important factor in weight control. Another tool provides measurements that can be used to devise programs to strengthen injured muscles and joints. In addition, Wellness Connection of the Miami Valley will evaluate cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose levels at the center.

“Being in the same space as the doctorate in physical therapy program, we gain efficiencies between the two programs,” said Paul Vanderburgh, chair of UD’s health and sport science department. “We get to use each other’s equipment.”

Highly conditioned athletes and sedentary but otherwise healthy adults will benefit from the services the center can provide, Vanderburgh added. “Body composition and aerobic capacity are not often discovered in a usual physical,” he said, noting that such information can help people make sensible decisions about nutrition and exercise.

“There are unlimited opportunities to put together a complete fitness assessment program,” said Laubach, adding that the center will be available to other organizations. The Ohio High School Athletic Association, for example, will begin this fall to mandate body composition testing for wrestlers. “We hope to market our services to them.”

Laubach, who serves on the Miami Valley Health Kids Task Force, sees the center’s user-friendly location in College Park Center, UD’s recently acquired building on Brown Street, and available parking as advantages that will draw clients from the community.

The Fitness Assessment Center also will become a learning laboratory for UD graduate students and undergraduates in exercise science and pre-physical therapy, who will staff the center, and for sport management majors, who will market its services to clients within and outside the University.

For media interviews, contact Lloyd Laubach at 937-229-4205. For more information about the BOD POD, see