Keeping Others in Ship Shape

Achieving good health often requires making small lifestyle changes for big results. Dr. Praveen Veerabhadrappa, assistant professor in exercise science, is helping Shippensburg’s faculty and staff make those changes one step at a time.

 Under Veerabhadrappa’s direction last spring, thirty-five faculty and staff members volunteered to participate in a 10,000-steps-a-day walking program over a four-week period. He will compile the results as part of his research about the value of workplace physical activity interventions.

“We call the program Ship Move, and I am looking forward to presenting the results at a national conference as well as at the PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) Human Resources Conference,” said Veerabhadrappa.

During the program, each participant received personalized pedometer settings using their height, weight, and walking stride data. At the end of the program, Veerabhadrappa compared each participant’s baseline numbers for weight, blood glucose level, lipid profile, and blood pressure with their post-study numbers.

“The improved physical well-being of the volunteers was a positive outcome, but we also were able to add to the current body of evidence that reflects the significant cost of physical inactivity among working adult Americans.” 

The study was funded by a grant through the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), and by the Student Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), which allowed Veerabhadrappa to mentor undergraduate Heather Weiss as his research assistant.

“The opportunity has allowed Heather to gain valuable research experience. She was able to participate in all phases of the study, from interacting with and coordinating the research participants to acquiring, analyzing, and interpreting the data.”

For Veerabhadrappa, contributing to the success of his students is one of the greatest rewards of teaching at Shippensburg. “It is not only important to generate scientific data, but also very important to communicate science effectively. I get tremendous pleasure from stimulating scientific curiosity in my students. I believe that scientific thinking is an art and it can be cultivated with the proper mindset and learning ecosystem.”

Veerabhadrappa’s teaching philosophy encourages his students to challenge the status quo and think creatively. “My vision is to not just prepare students for the questions we ask them today, but to train them to solve the unimagined problems they will likely face in the future.”

In addition to focusing on issues that inform and improve the physical lifestyles of Ship’s faculty and staff, Veerabhadrappa will continue exploring other issues in exercise physiology, especially those involving high blood pressure, known as hypertension. 

“About one in three American adults—an estimated 68 million—have hypertension, which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. Hypertension is called a ‘silent killer’ because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people don’t realize they have it,” he said. 

As a leading member of the American Heart Association’s Council of High Blood Pressure Research and a founding member of the International Society of Hypertension’s New Investigators Committee, he is particularly interested in pioneering research that explores lifestyle modifications and their effects on the vascular functions of African-Americans with high blood pressure. 

Though his findings are raising new questions, Veerabhadrappa has discovered an existential awareness that answers a more personal question.       

“I have recognized that the purpose of my life is to serve. Moving forward, I want to perform and present world-class research and dedicate my life to the advancement of medicine,” he said. “I have learned that obtaining a terminal degree in science, such as a PhD, presents a career responsibility to be innovative, and above all, to make a positive impact on society.”