Exercise Science

Combining excellent instruction with hands-on field experience

The Department of Exercise Science at Elon University critically examines the ways in which movement, exercise, and physical activity are inherent to and improve the human condition. Our mission is to develop well-rounded and informed students through theoretical and empirical knowledge. Our diverse and world class teacher-scholar-mentors do this through:

  • Outstanding teaching
  • Engaged experiences in classroom and laboratory
  • Mentoring undergraduate research experiences
  • Create global citizens through study abroad experiences
  • Experiential learning in professional settings through internships

Graduates of our program have the foundational knowledge and skills for advanced study and professional advancement.  These skills include, but are not limited to, written and verbal communication; critical thinking and problem solving; active discovery and reflection; and application of theory to practice.

Science-based curriculum

Elon’s exercise science curriculum begins with fostering a solid understanding of anatomy, chemistry and physiology. Students then apply theories learned to courses in biomechanics, bioenergetics, exercise/sport psychology, neuromotor control, and physiology of exercise, expanding their knowledge base by exploring how the body moves and responses to exercise across various populations. Students learn how to ask and explore hypothesis driven questions and interact with professionals in the field. The combination of foundational knowledge, critical thinking, and problem solving skills along with hands-on experiences in and out of the classroom are skills that are essential to professional success.

"The Elon Exercise Science program provided me with so many incredible opportunities that I would not have otherwise gotten. I was able to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor to complete my own original, in-depth research project from start to finish. My research findings allowed me to write multiple scholarly papers and present my research at professional conferences!"

Kathleen Hupfeld ’16
Doctoral cognitive neuroscience student, Michigan University (mentor leaving for UoF)
Doctoral Appliied Kinesiology and Physiology, University of Florida
NSF Graduate Fellow

Expert, accessible faculty

At Elon, students learn from dedicated faculty who have years of expertise in their fields and in academia. Small classes offer students unique access to professors and one-on-one instruction. All faculty maintain professional contacts in their fields, so they are able to help students identify appropriate graduate and professional schools, internships, and career opportunities.

Professor Elizabeth Bailey,  a certified Exercise Specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine and a certified Wellness Coach through Wellcoaches Corporation. She has a strong background in clinical exercise programming and health education. She coordinates three programs offered on campus for children in 4th -7th grade which provide physical activity programming, health education and mentoring relationships with Elon student volunteers, and teaches exercise classes in the Faculty/Staff Wellness program. Her research interests include investigating the impact of various programming techniques to promote exercise behavior for health in children and older adults, and the nutritional and exercise patterns of college students.

Dr. Daniel Baur, My primary research goal is to better understand the limits of human endurance and performance. Specifically, I am interested in acute and chronic nutritional interventions to augment carbohydrate availability and the real-world application of these strategies during training and competition. In addition, I am interested in optimizing long-term athlete development and the best uses of novel monitoring technologies to improve training outcomes. Finally, I conduct research examining the physiological and health impact of competing in ultraendurance events. Future projects will be aimed at optimizing exercise performance measurement, the impact of pre-exercise meal timing on performance, and the interplay between nutrition and hydration during running. If you are interested in topics in this area, please contact me to set up a meeting.

Dr. Barry Beedle, has been with Elon University for 37 years and is currently transitioning to retirement and focusing on his passion for teaching in the area of Exercise Physiology.

Dr. Wally Bixby, primary  research interest focuses on how people feel during and following exercise and how this information can be used to better prescribe exercise. An example of this is using affect to prescribe exercise intensity. Additionally, Dr. Bixby has conducted research examining the impacts of exercise on cognition, the impact of concussion on brain activity and cognition, the impact of cooling on performance in the heat, and the use of training aids on performance.

Dr. Joyce Davis, Current research projects focus on the biomechanics of dance. They use motion analysis, electromyography, and ground reaction force plates to study kinematics and kinetics. Examples include studying the effect of ballet shoes on hip and knee movements and the relationship between history of injury and impact forces on landing.

Dr. Eric Hall, research interests are in the psychological aspects of physical activity, exercise and sport. I have two major areas of research. The first line of research focuses on physical activity and mental health with a specific interest on exercise and its ability to change affect/mood and cognitive function. He is interested in the physiological/neuroscientific basis for why people feel better or have better cognitive function with exercise. His second line of research comes from my work on a project called Elon BrainCARE which I am co-director. This is a collaborative research project examining the impact of concussions on a wide array of variables (e.g., cognitive function, balance, gait, somatosensory processing, academics and quality of life) in collegiate student-athletes. 

Dr. Simon Higgins’ research interests focus on the interplay among human movement (physical activity, sedentary behavior, and exercise), body composition, and musculoskeletal health. Recent projects have examined: 1) the mediating role of muscle force capacity in the relationship between physical activity and skeletal health, 2) novel predictors of skeletal health in clinical and research settings, and 3) the effects of sedentary behavior on bone mineral and structural accrual. In addition, previous research has explored nutritional factors and exercise interventions aimed at improving both athletic performance and metabolic health. Dr. Higgins has a passion for health-focused and performance-enhancing research with a strong belief that Exercise is Medicine® in both preventative and therapeutic settings. Future projects will expand on these themes in the context of the muscle-bone unit, examining the effects of moment (or lack thereof) on skeletal micro- and macro-architecture.

Dr. Caroline Ketcham, research interests include movement control and coordination, seeking to better understand how the central nervous system controls and regulates coordinated movement in healthy individuals and those with neurological disease and/or brain injury. Current projects surround topics related to concussion (Elon BrainCARE), and the motor and speech systems using tDCS in kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Dr. Svetlana Nepocatych, research interests are in the areas of: sports nutrition, public health (physical activity, nutrition knowledge and dietary behaviors), yoga, exercise performance and recovery. She has several active research projects including: effects of rinsing vs. drinking water on physiological and psychological response during running and effects of yoga on psychosocial well-being and salivary cortisol. Future projects will include evaluating the effects of protein intake and supplementation on appetite, energy consumption and body composition.

Dr. Paul Miller, primary research interests involve the examination of muscle function, adaptation, and recovery.  This includes issues pertaining to healing, attenuation of delayed onset muscle soreness, and supplementation strategies.  He is also interested in the impact of various nutritional supplements have on exercise performance, physical function, and cognitive function. 

Dr. Takudzwa Madzima, primary research interests involves investigating the efficacy of exercise and dietary interventions to counteract the physical and psychosocial side effects of both cancer and cancer therapies in breast and prostate cancer survivors. Specifically, his goal is to identify non-pharmacological interventions such as aerobic and resistance exercise, protein and anti-inflammatory supplements can attenuate, and possibly reverse the loss of muscular mass and strength as well as the physical function and quality of life of these populations. In addition, he is interested in the effect of nighttime eating (food consumed at night prior to sleep) on metabolism, body composition, appetite and cardiometabolic risk in both active and sedentary adults.

Dr. Matthew Wittstein, The goal of his research is to understand how physiological rhythms change and relate to each other as a function of health and performance. The coupling of physiological systems could be an indication of increased demands on a person either due to their health (or lack of health) or the task they are performing. Using a combination of biomechanics, exercise physiology, and motor behavior it may be possible to better diagnose and treat complex pathologies or improve performance in sport and activities of daily living. His recent research has examined aging populations, but future projects aim to explore this principle to sport performance and patients of cardiac dysfunction, respiratory dysfunction, or concussion. 

“At Elon, studying Exercise Science does not only mean that you get to learn about science in an interdisciplinary and personally applicable way; it also means that you have the opportunity to be a part of a tight-knit community of ESS students and professors. I didn't come to Elon knowing that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but with the guidance of the ESS faculty, I pursued opportunities that helped to shape my career path. The mentorship and support that I received from the ESS faculty propelled me to where I am today.”

Molly Burgoyne ’15
Medical Student, University of Maryland

Excellent facilities and equipment

Exercise science majors work in Elon’s Koury Athletic Center, which houses a full complement of health, training, exercise and sports facilities. The Exercise Science Laboratory features instrumentation to assess body composition, aerobic fitness, muscle strength and endurance, balance, gait, and sport performance. The lab also includes new electroencephalography (EEG) and electromyography (EMG) equipment.

Learning outside the classroom

One of the hallmarks of an Elon education is hands-on learning, and nowhere is that more evident than in the exercise science program. Putting the discipline’s skills, approaches and theories to test in real-world situations is essential to a full understanding of the subject. This can be achieved through practicum, internship and undergraduate research experiences. 

Exercise science majors are required to complete a practicum experience and are strongly encouraged to complete an internship or research experience. All these experiences give students invaluable opportunities to sharpen their skills, observe how the industry works, gain experience working with people, build confidence and make valuable industry contacts.

Many students pursue undergraduate research opportunities and present their findings at regional and national conferences.  

Opportunities After Graduation

Alumni of Elon's Department of Exercise Science pursue diverse careers, including research, corporate health and wellness, personal fitness training, and strength and conditioning. Many graduates choose to attend graduate school in medicine, nursing, physical and occupational therapy, and many other fields. Exercise Science graduates have been accepted to prestigious institutions, including:

  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • East Carolina University
  • Elon University
  • Emory University
  • George Washington University
  • Harvard University
  • John Hopkins University
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • Temple University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana
  • University of Indiana
  • University of Michigan
  • University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro)
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington University.

“I learned that I am capable of far more than I ever imagined and that there is more to exercise science than going to physical therapy school or becoming a personal trainer. My friends are going on to do some amazing things and I am pursuing a career path I didn't even know existed.”

Lauren Shaver ’16
MS Exercise Science Student, Wake Forest University