Health and Exercise Science breaks ground on lab expansion

Faculty from the Department of Health and Exercise Science joined CSU officials Monday to celebrate a groundbreaking for the expansion of a very special lab on campus.

The Human Performance Clinical/Research Laboratory, located on the east side of Moby Arena, was the brainchild of the late Gay Israel, who headed the department for 18 years. Designated a CSU Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence, the HPCRL is now undergoing its final phase: a 4,275-square-foot addition expected to be completed next summer.

Israel’s wife, Karan, attended the Nov. 14 groundbreaking ceremony.

From left: McCubbin, Israel and Braun

“I want to acknowledge Karan Israel, and also Gay, who was the heart and soul of this place and continues to be,” said Barry Braun, head of the HES department. “Today we are kicking off a fundraising campaign to support this expansion, and one of the big goals we have is to name a prominent part of it for Gay. We want to make sure that in this fundraising campaign we keep Gay’s vision, leadership and determination front and center.”

Naming opportunities for new labs and other spaces in the HPCRL will also be available, adding to the numerous private gifts that have fueled the facility’s growth to date. Braun invited interested donors to learn more through a visit or to make a gift online at

The addition

The $2.5 million expansion will be constructed on the building’s south side and will result in a new entryway, offices, conference room, three clinical labs, a Neurophysiology and Rehabilitation Lab, a Clinical Biomechanics Lab and a Physical Activity for Treatment and Prevention Lab.

“What this addition will allow us to do is expand our capacity for the threefold mission of the lab: innovative research in human health and function, outreach programs such as heart disease prevention, and hands-on training for both undergraduate and graduate students,” Braun said at the ceremony.

From left are HES faculty Christopher Bell, Benjamin Miller, Karyn Hamilton, Brian Butki, Matt Hickey and Tiffany Lipsey

“The space we’re in now will be the next wing that will enable the department to continue to grow, add faculty and add research capacity that is tremendous,” added Jeff McCubbin, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

About the labs

Braun said the three new clinical labs will expand the HPCRL’s ability to accommodate researchers elsewhere on campus who want to use the facility. He said departments that have expressed interest in conducting research at the lab include Food Science and Human Nutrition, Human Development and Family Studies and Psychology.

The Neurophysiology and Rehabilitation Lab will be used primarily by Neha Lodha, who is joining the HES faculty in January from the University of Florida. Braun said the lab will feature driving simulators that will be used in Lodha’s research on aging, the consequences of a stroke and the effectiveness of rehabilitation on older adults’ ability to drive.

An old racquetball court adjacent to the HPCRL will be converted into the Clinical Biomechanics Lab, which will principally be used by Associate Professor Raoul Reiser for his work on surfaces and footwear/surface interactions, Braun said. It will feature a special staircase to a mezzanine that can be used to record and measure things like downward force and joint angles as people walk up and down the stairs.

Braun said the Physical Activity for Treatment and Prevention Lab will focus primarily on Assistant Professor Heather Leach’s research on exercise-based interventions for cancer patients and survivors.

Hoy discusses the design of the expansion.
Hoy discusses the design of the expansion.

Vision for the design

The project’s architect, Art Hoy, who designed the HES teaching facility on the north side of the Moby B Complex, said the HPCRL expansion will preserve the lab’s glass wall east of the current entrance. The new entrance area will be built along Moby Drive, but the rest of the addition will be tiered back to the glass wall from that point, creating an outdoor park area. A pedestrian plaza will be added to the west side of the addition, featuring a long planter running under the office windows as well as a wall and blocks for students to sit on. An “energy walkway” featuring high ceilings and a continuous skylight will stretch between the north and south lobbies, Hoy said. Many of the addition’s walls will either be made entirely of glass or have high clerestory windows to let natural light in.

Is too much exercise bad for your heart?

One reason the Human Performance Clinical/Research Laboratory needs expanded space is that its Heart Disease Prevention Program is launching into a new realm of inquiry: Is there such a thing as too much exercise?

The Heart Disease Prevention Program is aimed at reducing cardiovascular risks among firefighters, since more than 50 percent of line-of-duty deaths in that field are cardiac-related. But now, thanks to about $90,000 in new funding provided by the CSU Office of the Vice President for Research,  the HDPP will begin exploring whether extensive exercise over a long period of time may actually increase individuals’ cardiac-related risks.

The HPCRL has been designated a CSU Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence by the VPR office since 2008. In a separate, competitive grant process, the program was one of five to be funded for new research projects.

Barry Braun, head of the Department of Health and Exercise Science, is partnering with Dr. Gary Luckasen, a CSU alumnus and medical director of research at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, to lead the new study. Braun said cardiologists are seeing an increasing number of cardiac problems in people over age 45 who are avid longtime runners, cyclists or triathletes.

“It flies in the face of cardiologists telling people for decades that more is better,” Braun said. “Is there an upper limit to what people can do? Can you exceed it and do harm?”

He noted that problems like calcium accumulation, atrial fibrillation and cardiac hypertrophy have mostly been detected in male athletes in their 40s, 50s and 60s, and more research needs to be done on female athletes. Braun added that Colorado is an ideal place to conduct such a study because outdoor sports like distance running and cycling are so popular in the state.

“We want to compare these high-level athletes to people who just meet the basic recommendation of 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days a week,” Braun said. “Is running 15 to 20 miles a week healthier than running 50 to 60 miles a week, and at what age does an increased risk occur? These are some of the questions we want to answer.”

Braun said that the new research will be conducted primarily by Jennifer Richards, a research associate in CSU’s Human Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory, and Dr. Patrick Green of the UCHealth Heart Center.

The idea, Hoy said, was to have the expansion reflect the department’s mission, with themes of movement, flow, rhythm, cadence, progression and kinetic energy.

“We started this project not by talking about square footage and building area, but the mission of this lab and what this place is all about,” Hoy said. “My job was to take all I heard and try to embody it in a physical structure. It’s about embodying that mission of research, discovery and dissemination to the community, and making a lasting difference in people’s lives. The building is not a simple square box, it has a feeling of motion and energy to it.”

Previous phases

The original HPCRL facility, which opened in May 2000, contained 6,200 square feet of research and clinical outreach space. In July 2008, an addition of 1,100 square feet of wet lab space was added, and a new 4,000-square-foot research addition opened in January 2010.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. The project manager for the expansion is CSU alumna Laura Bently, and CSU alumnus Brady Carlstrom of Facilities Management is heading up the crew that will build the addition. Both are graduates of the Department of Construction Management in the college.