There won't be any lab rats or chemicals involved in an upcoming research project being conducted by two professors from Minot State University, but there will be some exercising and memory improvement for those in the 70 years-plus population.
Professors Terry Eckmann, teacher education and human performance, and Vicki Michels, addiction studies, are conducting a research project that will compare cognitive and physical changes in groups of people who participate in either Zumba Gold or yoga to see if the one form of exercise is better than the other.
In this research project, Eckmann and Michels are seeking participants who are 70-plus years of age, are willing to complete cognitive and physical tests, are willing to commit to participate in yoga or beginner Zumba Gold exercise classes, and complete a health risk survey and receive medical clearance from their physician. Other requirements include that participants have no evidence of cardiorespiratory, metabolic, musculoskeletal or neurological disorders that would interfere with the activities in the exercise classes, and that participants are interested in improving their fitness, health and cognitive abilities.
Students Breann Zietz, left, and Sarah White, right, and professor Terry Eckmann demonstrate some Zumba steps in the lounge area of Swain Hall on the campus of Minot State University. Eckmann, along with addiction studies professor Vicki Michels, will conduct a 12-week research project comparing cognitive and physical changes in people ages 70 and older who do beginning Zumba Gold or yoga classes.
The cognitive part looks at the emotional side of the brain. Depression is said to decrease with exercise, Eckmann said. Also being looked at in the study will be distraction, she added, so they'll see if Zumba Gold or yoga improves the distraction level. They'll be looking at visual spatial memory, too, Michels said, to see if it improves or changes. Eckmann said Zumba teaches dance steps, so they're wondering if it might be more effective than yoga.
Eckmann and Michels would like to have 60 participants for this project. Participants will be divided into two groups and participants may indicate a preference of beginning Zumba Gold or yoga, but will not necessarily be guaranteed placement in their preferred group due to research guidelines.
The informational meeting will be Wednesday at The View, at 3 p.m. People interested are asked to pick up an information packet at the front desks of The View, Edgewood Vista, Brentmoor and The Wellington assisted living facilities. Eckmann and Michels are also requesting that participants bring the completed physician release form to the informational meeting. Participants can also return the form by mail to Terry Eckmann, Teacher Education and Human Performance, Minot State University, 500 University Ave. W, Minot, ND 58707. They are also asking that people not call and come to the informational meeting instead.
Beginning Zumba Gold and yoga classes will meet two or three times a week for 30 minutes, from Sept. 3 to Nov. 21. Eckmann said they are looking at having yoga classes at 1:45 p.m. and Zumba Gold at 2 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Eckmann had 14 students go through yoga training and six students will work in the research project and the other eight students are participating in class certification. Five students went through training to instruct Zumba Gold classes, she added. The training benefited the students and the university community, Eckmann noted, because they taught classes on campus and the Minot community will be participating in the research project.
"In the past, we have had 150 to 300 people interested in participating (in similar research projects)," Eckmann said. "So we're hoping to get that response with this one."
The idea for this research project belongs to Eckmann, since the cognitive idea is a big concern as people get older and what goes on in peoples' brains, she explained. She's worked with Zumba Gold before, she said, and did an interview before on the brain and exercise.
"Research has shown that exercise does so much for the brain and dance has shown to prevent dementia," Eckmann said.
Participants involved in the study will do an assessment test during the week of Aug. 27 before the project starts, they'll do an assessment halfway through the study, and then do a final assessment at the end, Eckmann said. "It's not an intelligence test, just an attention and brief memory screen," she added.
Something that Eckmann said she really wants to stress is that anyone can do Zumba Gold and the classes will be very introductory with basic steps.
Participants in the Zumba Gold or yoga classes can expect to see an improvement in their flexibility, agility, strength, cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance. "It's also a great way to meet new people, be involved in research, and get the assessments," Eckmann added. "You'll realize you can do things and learn from them."
The hardest part in getting the 70-plus-year age group to participate in this has to do with fear, being afraid of something they can't do and embarrassment, said Michels. That's why, added Eckmann, they'll be emphasizing a non-competitive, non-judging, fun experience.
"It's a great, new, fun opportunity to try something new, improve mental and physical health, meet new people, and have fun," Eckmann said.