Health and Exercise Science Then and Now

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Colorado State University, we look back as a department to celebrate how far we have come as well as the principles we were founded on. Looking back, physical education has been an integral part of the teachings of CSU, with programs and degrees leading back over more than a century. Those concentrations and degree programs have grown and culminated into the current Health and Exercise Science programs we know today, and show how important the work of our department and our mission of education and movement has been to the university through the years.


The university was founded. Classes began 10 years later. In the inaugural year, the basement of Old Main was used for drill and gymnastics for the first students to use.

Four rows of 4 women each hold a pose with their right foot forward and their left arm above their heads in a gymnasium. This photo was used on page 119 of the College Bulletin published in May 1919. The title used was "Women's Gymnasium Class". Photo was taken in gymnasium located in Old Main.
Four rows of 4 women each hold a pose with their right foot forward and their left arm above their heads in a gymnasium. This photo was used on page 119 of the College Bulletin published in May 1919. The title used was “Women’s Gymnasium Class”. Photo was taken in gymnasium located in Old Main.


The establishment of a campus-wide physical culture program allowed all students to access physical education.


The South College Gymnasium facility was completed to meet the increasing need for physical education. It served as a headquarters for the newly instituted Athletics and Physical Training Program.


Ammons hall was built as a social center and athletic facility to meet the needs of the growing population of women at the college. By the mid-twenties, there were two separate programs for the men and women’s physical education programs, and intercollegiate athletics formed and unified within the two programs.


The B.S. in Physical Education was established as an undergraduate major.

Five women in gymnastic poses: central 1 holds the ankles of 2 doing handstands on either side; 2 on outer ends hold up 1 of their arms while stretching 1 leg back
Five women in gymnastic poses: central 1 holds the ankles of 2 doing handstands on either side; 2 on outer ends hold up 1 of their arms while stretching 1 leg back. 1932-05-17


The graduate degree, an M.Ed. in Physical Education, was established.


Construction Moby Gymnasium was completed in 1966. The stadium was named after the book, Moby Dick, because the construction looked like a white whale to students during construction, and the name stuck after construction was completed. With its completion, the men and women’s education physical education programs were unified into one academic and administrative unit. Athletics separated as an independent unit.

Early 1970s

The department continues to operate as a physical education unit that focused on educating students in both physical education and in coaching athletes in the public school system.


An adult fitness and cardiac rehabilitation program was established in the South Gymnasium for both CSU faculty and the community. The Commercial Physical Education tract was also established, which was the first non-teaching, coaching-focused concentration.

Moby Arena - Physical Education and Athletics sign 1967
Moby Arena – Physical Education and Athletics sign 1967

Early 1980s

With increasing social awareness of the beneficial impact of exercise to health and well being, the department focused on diversifying and altered their curriculum so exercise and sport could be evaluated in a more scientific manner rather than the previous coaching and teaching focus. This began with the Commercial Physical Education program becoming the Corporate Fitness and Wellness major in 1980-1981. The department also offered two tracts leading to the M.Ed., an Exercise Science track and a Teacher Education track. The original Human Performance Laboratory was established in 1981 to meet this demand.

Late 1980s

The department changed its name and curricular re-orientation in 1987, transitioning from the Physical Education Department to the Department of Exercise and Sport Science.  In 1986-1987, a new undergraduate Sports Medicine major was established with a strong curricular focus upon biological and scientific aspects of exercise and sport in order to prepare students for graduate and professional schools or careers in sports medicine and health professions. The Department supported three undergraduate major concentrations: Teacher Preparation, Wellness Program Management, and Sports Medicine. In 1988, in order to more accurately reflect the science-based curriculum and the requirement of a research thesis by all students, the M.Ed. degree was also replaced with the M.S. degree.

Equipment and laboratories were acquired to ensure a high quality educational experience for the enormous increase in student numbers during this period. A bio-mechanics laboratory was established in the 1987.

Early 1990s

In 1990, in conjunction with the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, an interdisciplinary M.S. in Exercise and Nutrition was approved.  In 1991, the Department re-organized its graduate program and established four concentration areas: (1) exercise physiology, (2) bio-mechanics, (3) wellness management, and (4) pedagogy. The Human Performance Laboratory was unable to meet the demands placed upon it by ever increasing research projects and student educational needs.  Therefore, two distinct Human Performance Laboratories, one for research and one for teaching, were created in 1991. A 20 station computer laboratory was also added in 1991. In 1993, the Departmental graduate program was reorganized into two concentrations: Exercise Science and Wellness Program Management.


The Department name was changed from Exercise and Sport Science to Health and Exercise Science in order to reflect the new health-related emphasis of the department and degree programs. The Graduate Program was completely revised based upon the new direction of the department and input from alumni of the program. The undergraduate curriculum, with concentrations in health promotion and sports medicine, was revised and reduced to 120 credits. Teacher Preparation was discontinued beginning in 2000 because the department no longer had the resources to do an outstanding job in providing three distinct concentrations.

The dedication of the Human Performance Clinical/Research Laboratory in May 2000 was a highlight of this period. This $1.8 million facility housed more than $1 million worth of state-of-the-art research equipment and infrastructure. The Heart Disease Prevention Program, aimed at early testing for heart disease in both the CSU and surrounding communities, was also established in May 2000.

Over $3.5 million has been invested in remodeling South College Gym, Moby B- wing, Moby A130 teaching lab, and the Moby C-wing weight room and cardio area during this period.

The Human Performance Clinical Research Lab after its latest expansion
The Human Performance Clinical Research Lab after its latest expansion

These projects include:

Human Performance Clinical/Research Laboratory B118 remodel –  2004

Human Performance Clinical/Research Laboratory B116 remodel –  2004

Moby A-Wing Teaching Laboratory sound attenuation –  2002

Moby second floor B-Wing ($1,019,000) and C-Wing renovation –  2001

Human Performance Clinical/Research Laboratory construction –  1999-2000

Moby Women’s Locker Room expansion/remodel –  1999-2000

Moby C-Wing Gymnasium floor replacement –  1999

Moby A-Wing Teaching Laboratory remodel –  1998

South College Gymnasium renovation –  1997-1998


A Doctor of Philosophy degree in Human Bioenergetics was developed and the first class of Ph.D. candidates entered the program in Fall 2007. HES initiates the sponsorship of a Health and Exercise Science Living and Learning Community, which currently has 69 students and occupies two floors of Corbett Hall. HES is the only department to sponsor a Living and Learning Community; all others are college level sponsors.

Ryan Donovan, Senior Instructor of Health and Exercise Science, teaches HES 340, Exercise Prescription, October 9, 2019
Ryan Donovan, Senior Instructor of Health and Exercise Science, teaches HES 340, Exercise Prescription, October 9, 2019


The Human Performance Clinical Research Laboratory (HPCRL) is named as Colorado State University Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence (PRSE). Programs are awarded this designation because they have achieved great distinction and set a standard for excellence that may serve as a model for programs throughout the institution. Programs are selected after an extensive nomination and review process that takes place every four years. This year, the HES Faculty Honors Scholarship Awards was also established. These annual awards are given to four undergraduate students who demonstrate both strong academics and a quality undergraduate research experience by using funds generated by faculty from honors theses mentoring.


The HPCRL Research and Outreach Addition is completed in January 2010, adding 4,000 square feet of new wet lab, cell culture opportunities and four clinical research labs. The Department also played a significant role in the development and implementation of an inter-institutional School of Public Health. which grants a Masters of Public Health Degree.


HES community outreach programs (a long tradition at CSU) have been continually upgraded and have experienced significant growth. These programs include Adult Fitness, Noon-Hour Fitness Program, Youth Sports Camps and the Heart Disease Prevention Program.


Today, the Health and Exercise Science department houses a Bachelor of Science program that has two undergraduate concentrations, sports medicine and health promotion, as well as a Master of Science in Health and Exercise Science and a Ph.D. in Human Bioenergetics. As embodied by our tagline “Movement Equals Health,” our degree programs focus on emphasizing the importance of physical activity in optimizing health and preventing disease. At over 1,000 undergraduates and a full capacity of Ph.D. and graduate students, we are one of the largest departments on campus. Many of our students are proud first-generation students, as well as a large portion of our faculty. We strive to create an inclusive learning environment for all students, which we hope they carry forward into their future health practices.

Through our state-of-the-art facilities and distinctive research and academic programs, we emphasize physical activity, wellness, and disease prevention. We have 11 operating labs, all with student involvement opportunities, as well as seven outreach programs that benefit the community in wellness, activity, research, recovery and performance testing for all ages. We continue to grow and expand our program year over year, adding new experiences that allow for more research and hands on learning for every level of education.

Our program and mission remains an integral part of the university system, and we are excited to continue to grow and expand with the CSU community and the larger health community for many years to come.

Thank you to Dale DeVoe for his ongoing departmental research and record keeping, which made this article possible. Thank you to the University Historic Photograph Collection for their access to archival photographs of the department. 

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.