HHP Research Spotlight

Gators in Motion

Today’s digital world is causing rising levels of obesity and a lack of physical literacy in our youth, especially those in underserved communities. Physical literacy is the ability and competence to move with confidence in a variety of activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.

With an interest in physical literacy, Dr. Trevor Bopp, assistant professor in the Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management joined forces with HHP alumnus Addison Staples, founder of Aces in Motion (AIM). AIM is the Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association’s (GACTA) youth program that uses tennis to promote character development, academic achievement and a healthy lifestyle to people of all abilities, with a focus on underserved youth.

Under the direction of Dr. Bopp and sponsored by TRSM, Gators in Motion came to life. Gators in Motion is a sports-based youth development program that brings the AIM students to the UF campus. While it teaches the same lessons, as well as monitors and evaluates the progression of its youth participants, in the areas of character development, academic growth and physical activity; it also serves as a tool to collect data on physical literacy and youth sport for Dr. Bopp’s research team in the HHP Laboratory for Athlete and Athletics Development and Research (LAADR). A primary objective for his team is to create a scale that can be used to measure physical literacy and other physical activity metrics.

“The goal of Aces in Motion and Gators in Motion is to encourage participants to succeed in school as well as in life,” explains Dr. Bopp. “Both programs take a holistic approach towards the life-skills advancement and physical enrichment of our youth participants. We believe kids who learn to move and behave and interact with confidence become confident adults.”

During the school year, approximately 25 middle school students from East Gainesville came to the UF campus two days a week for various activities. On the agenda was basketball in the Florida Gym, tennis at Flavet Field, tutoring with the UF College Reach Out Program (CROP) and visits to the Harn Museum of Art and Chemistry lab. Highlights also included an interactive session with the UF dance team, the Dazzlers, and participation in a mini-Field Leadership Reaction Course administered by UF’s Army ROTC.

“The majority of these kids live only minutes away from UF, but have never stepped foot on campus,” says Dr. Bopp. “If our students are comfortable in a college or academic setting and have a better perception of higher education, we believe they are more likely to succeed at school and apply to college when the time comes. We don’t want high school to be the final destination.”

Due to the success of the inaugural Gators in Motion program, a new class of students will be coming to campus three days a week this fall.

And, it turns out that HHP faculty and alumni aren’t the only ones getting something out of this relationship:

“I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have these experiences on campus without Gators in Motion,” says Aaliyah, an eighth grader at Howard Bishop Middle School. “Before this year I had never picked up a tennis racquet. Now, it’s my favorite sport!”

To support Gators in Motion and the work of the Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sports Management, please click HERE


HHP Alumni Spotlight

The Whole Person Approach: Mind, body, emotions and purpose.

Jennifer Lea graduated from The College of HHP in 2006 and knew that her Health Education and Behavior degree set her up for exactly where she wanted to be. While completing her Master’s degree at UCF Jennifer worked at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (JJHPI). In this position, Jennifer and the JJHPI team have trained more than 70,000 J&J employees, as well as thousands of top corporate executives worldwide.

JJHPI operates with a goal of equipping individuals to perform at their best and live their most meaningful life. And, that is just what she does and helps others to do, every day.

One of the goals of the Johnson & Johnson leadership team is to have the healthiest workforce on the planet. And according to Jennifer, this isn’t just about exercising or eating right. It is a whole-person approach. Mind, body, emotions and purpose.

“At Johnson & Johnson, we create behavior changing solutions to help individual leaders and organizations thrive in the face of extreme stress in this 24/7 world we live in,” says Jennifer. “We look at people from the inside out. It’s about life skills and how you apply those skills in every moment to live your best life.”

Jennifer and her team deliver training sessions in various channels, depending on the audience. These include individual, group, online, keynote presentations and podcasts, to name a few.

In addition to her work at Johnson & Johnson, Jennifer was a lead performance coach for MSNBC Know Your Value Conference in 2015. Via podcasts and blogs, she specifically enjoys coaching women to help them achieve their full potential. As a 30-something mom herself, she relates to all working moms out there and doesn’t ever want women to feel like they have to make sacrifices at work or home as they pursue their dreams and aspirations. According to Jennifer, women should always feel like they have a choice.

“Women can have it all, but maybe not all at the same time,” explains Jennifer. “My goal is to help women figure out what they want and find meaning in what they do. They should feel they have the choice to decline a promotion without worry. Many times we think if we don’t accept the promotion now then we’ll never be able to get to the top. We worry too much about how that will be perceived and I know too many women who wish they would have made different choices to be more engaged with their family and friends, as well as take better care of themselves. Instead, they feel they have to make sacrifices at home or in self-care in order to be successful at work. Men and women need be able to make choices that are right for their families and therefore find the much coveted work/life integration.”

Two things stand out to Jennifer from her time at HHP: class content and team projects. HEB wasn’t her first choice as a major, but during her time at UF she knew she wanted a career where she actually made a difference in people’s lives. When she discovered Health Education & Behavior, she knew it was right because it was whole health. She learned how to influence and motivate change in people struggling and in crisis.

Secondly, it was group projects that truly impact what she does now. Working in groups helped her learn the different work ethic of others and helped her step up as a leader to rally a group of people to achieve the same goal.

When she’s not helping other people achieve perfect balance, she’s enjoying it herself. Jennifer loves to travel with her husband and two young sons. They’ve already explored Nicaragua and will soon be heading out on a road trip up the Eastern Seaboard. Her family is also consumed with Little League Baseball, and she is loving every minute of it.

In the end, Jennifer wants to inspire people and bring women together for success.

“I would love to see women entering the workplace with a sense of competence and understanding with where they want to go in life. Women, together, have so much influence in our communities. I want to tap into that. We can empower each other to bring knowledge and inspire change,” says Jennifer. “Life is about risks and curve balls. It’s about getting back up – stronger and smarter.”

To support the Department of Health Education and Behavior, please click HERE.


Meet Our Student

Aaron Morton

Harding University – 2010
B.S. in Exercise Science

University of West Florida – 2013
M.S. in Exercise Science

University of Florida – expected graduation 2018
Ph.D. in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology


Where are you from and how did you come to find yourself at the University of Florida? I grew up in a small Texas town named Katy where I participated in football, wrestling, and track. Indeed, I attribute my initial passion for physiology to my experience with Katy athletics.

My first exposure to exercise science was at Harding University in Arkansas. In 1967, Harding built the R.T. Clark Research Center, which was commissioned by NASA to investigate the human performance of Apollo era astronauts. The Department of Exercise and Sport Science at Harding University was born out of this initial research center, to which I was granted almost unlimited access. Therefore, I spent many mornings in the lab at 6 a.m. before my classes testing several parameters of my own physiology, spanning from blood hematocrit in response to Gatorade to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.  Not only was it inspiring for me to use equipment previously used by astronauts, but it also solidified my desire to pursue physiology.

During my masters, I was afforded the opportunity to visit the University of Florida and meet with Dr. Scott Powers. It had always been a goal of mine to pursue my PhD in a lab with a rich history in exercise physiology, and Dr. Powers’ Integrative Muscle Biochemistry Laboratory at UF was my first choice.

You’re a Doctoral student at the UF College of HHP, what kind of research are you working on now? Mechanical ventilation saves the lives of patients unable to breath on their own. An unfortunate side-effect of prolonged mechanical ventilation is diaphragm muscle weakness (predicted to be the primary cause of patient weaning complications) for which there is no FDA approved pharmacologic intervention. Recently, we discovered that exercise preconditioning can rescue the diaphragm from this weakness. While it is impractical to ask a mechanically ventilated patient to exercise, our lab has been using exercise paired with innovative molecular techniques as a powerful tool to discover new therapeutic targets for drug companies. Specifically, I investigate the protective effect of exercise preconditioning on the diaphragm during mechanical ventilation.

Tell us what you love about your time at HHP? The College of Health and Human Performance has built a strong collaborative environment with excellent scientists recruiting outstanding students.  It has been my great pleasure to work shoulder to shoulder with people that have the potential to one day be at the top of their field.

 Outside of classes and research, what are your extracurricular activities / hobbies / volunteerism? My wife is a trainer at Gainesville Health and Fitness, therefore, we both greatly enjoy being active and discussing physiology.  For volunteerism, we volunteer at a local church in town working with young professionals.  In addition, I occasionally take a break from studies to build wooden furniture.

What are your hopes for the future? I have developed a fascination with tissue engineering. In that regard, I am actively pursuing a post-doctoral position in this field with the goal of one day running my own laboratory.

To support the Department of Applied Physiology & Kinesiology, please click HERE.