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Amy Solana
May 31, 2023

Exercise Science Student Tailors Major to Pursue Recreational Therapy

Amy Solana expressed the joy of movement throughout her college years — leading Zumba classes at the recreation center, choreographing pieces for the Berry College Dance Company, learning then teaching tap, and offering fitness classes and personal training at The Spires, a Berry-affiliated retirement community. There was a purpose behind all this activity: preparation for a meaningful path in life. 

A course in recreational therapy, which highlights the use of exercise as an intervention to promote physical health for individuals with illnesses or disabilities, sparked her imagination. After talking with Megan Janke, the assistant professor of kinesiology who taught the class, Amy knew how to channel her energy and passion. “I realized that I want to go into recreational therapy as my career,” she says. Focusing on relevant subjects like leisure, health, aging, medicine and science in exercise, and disability and sport, she also managed to minor in dance, psychology and Spanish.

Along with practical work experiences and academics, Amy got involved in research, coached by David Elmer, department chair and associate professor of kinesiology. She and a fellow student conducted a study comparing two popular exercise programs — Zumba and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) — as an intervention for college students who are not athletes.

“The goal was to see if Zumba achieves similar effects to HIIT treadmill exercise while having greater benefits on balance and mobility,” Amy explains. In Berry’s state-of-the-art kinesiology lab, Amy and her colleague measured participants’ cardiovascular fitness, body composition, balance, mobility and psychological well-being.

Amy is working part-time as a fitness instructor at a senior living facility while earning a master’s degree in recreational therapy. She’ll apply knowledge gained during a 2022 summer internship when she led group fitness classes and personal training sessions while learning to adapt exercise for patients facing the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and stroke.

Looking back on her Berry career, she treasures relationships built with seniors she taught at The Spires. “I now feel like I have a bunch of adopted grandparents,” she says. “A lot of them even came to support me at my dance show.”

Having discovered her path in college, Amy encourages students to take their time to define their careers: “Exercise science is a very broad field. Definitely keep an open mind and explore all the options within the major!”

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