Building Strength, Building Futures: Scouts Embark on Personal Fitness Journey with Midwestern University PT Department Partnership

Guiding Scouts Through Personalized Fitness Regimens and Mentorship

“…to keep myself physically strong…”
How many pushups can you do in a minute? Scouts from across the Council have been finding out the answer to this question and more at Midwestern University under the supervision of Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students and Assistant Professor Dr. Josh Subialka, PT, DPT, DSc, OCS, FAAOMPT.

2024 is the second year that the Midwestern University PT Department has partnered with Grand Canyon Council BSA to offer the Personal Fitness Merit Badge. The Merit Badge is held over 5 Saturdays beginning in January. The first session covers all academic requirements. The next session is the baseline fitness test (height, weight, pushups, sit-ups, sit and reach, and a 1-mile run/walk). After the initial fitness test, Scouts are paired with a DPT student to create an individualized 12-week fitness regimen. At each of the follow up sessions (weeks 4, 8, and 12) the Scouts conduct the fitness test, check for progress, and update their home fitness regimen. This year over 20 Scouts enrolled for the merit badge, and still, the ratio of Scout to DPT student was on average 3:1.

The DPT students have commented on how much they enjoy engaging with the Scouts in a preventative and proactive approach to health and wellness starting at a young age. By contrast, most of their regular patients and training is for rehabilitation from injury, surgery, pain, or general loss of function, attempting to return patients back to optimal function with the least amount of pain possible. As the merit badge counselor, Mitch Tate, Scoutmaster Troop 513, says in the introduction of the academic session, “these DPT students are here to keep you (the Scouts) from being patients of theirs”.

Just as with the session in 2023, all of the participants are demonstrating improvement in each of the fitness test domains. This year, some Scouts nearly doubled their pushups from baseline to the first follow up after just four weeks. The Scouts comment on how surprised they are with their own progress. As with so many of the merit badges offered, Scouts are asked to learn about careers related to the topic. With this merit badge, Scouts are learning from students or licensed practitioners in healthcare fields, in the actual work environment (the Midwestern University Therapy Institute clinic). Look for the next session to begin in January 2025.