TCNJ Magazine Winter 2024

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33 WINTER 2024 Faigenbaum's early years in the field were not easy, but he hadn't expected them to be. When he decided to focus his doctoral research at Boston University on youth strength training, his advisor, sports scientist Len Zaichkowsky, warned him there'd be pushback; the idea that young children might need to increase their muscular fitness was taboo. But Faigenbaum decided to let the science, not the skeptics, lead the way. He assembled a research team made up of Zaichkowsky and a handful of colleagues in Boston interested in challenging the conventional wisdom on the topic. The group included Lyle Micheli, then the director of sports medicine at Boston Children's Hospital, and Wayne Westcott, a strength-training expert and fitness director at a local YMCA. Their first study tracked the effects of a twice-weekly strength-training program on boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 12. "Surprise, surprise, the children got stronger," Faigenbaum says. "There were no injuries. The children en- joyed the program. And we started to improve some motor performance skills, like their ability to jump and run." He produced dozens of papers expanding the field's understanding of youth strength training, with studies tackling topics ranging from its psychosocial benefits to how it could reduce sports injuries in young athletes. In particular, his work documented how strength training gave overweight children, frustrated by aerobic activity, an opportunity to be successful and provided a gateway to increased physical activity. After joining TCNJ in 2004, Faigenbaum's reputation among teachers and scholars alike continued to grow. When Carole Kenner became dean of TCNJ's School of Nursing and Health Sciences in 2014, she immediately asked Faigenbaum to work on a community program, funded with a $50,000 grant from Novo Nordisk, aimed at improving nutrition and conditioning in kids. "He's always believed that there has to be a combination of the academic/theoretical and then the application, and the application also has to have a component in the community," she says. "Very few people in exercise science really put that together, especially in terms of pediatrics and wellness." Faigenbaum's impact on his field has been amplified by not only the scope of his work, but its reach. He's pushed to get the research into the world, accepting invitations to share his research with police departments, fitness councils, sports camps, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, schools, and colleges and universities throughout America and as far away as Argentina and Australia. 2 3

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