Highlights from the Fall 2020 Horizons School Student Fitness Program

To promote safety and wellness during the pandemic, students in Fitness classes this term participated in live remote activities led by Greater Level Training (GLT) twice weekly with assistance from Horizons School faculty.  GLT performed pre and post assessments to measure student progress during the fall, noted individual improvements, and offered encouragement.  Data from the assessments showed that as a group, the students had improved upper body, lower body, and core strength compared to their performance at the beginning of the fall!  Students shared individual outcomes, for instance, “My flexibility improved,” “I became stronger and faster,” and “I’m more relaxed.”

In addition, Horizons continued its partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the We Can Do It! Program. Our students benefited from nutrition and fitness assessment and mentoring by eager mentors via weekly Zoom meetings. University mentors developed “smart goals” with each student and evaluated progress during their follow-up meetings.  Students will revisit individual goals and continue engaging in physical activity when classes resume after the holiday. Horizons School promotes developing lifelong wellness habits, including healthy eating and exercise!  

Highlights of Horizons School Student Fitness Assessments

During the Summer Term of 2020, Horizons School partnered with coaches of Greater Level Training to present a virtual fitness program consisting of twice weekly chair exercises, guided yoga and stretching. The new format was in response to the global pandemic requiring social distancing. Seventeen Horizons students completed individual fitness assessments guided by faculty and coaches. Comparing data at the beginning and ending of nine weekly training sessions revealed positive results of virtual fitness sessions

Students rated four items about chair fitness videos and live discussion with trainers using a 10-point scale. Mean scores between 7.0 and 9.0 (out of 10.0 possible points) revealed students’ satisfaction. Comments indicate their favorite aspects of virtual fitness classes: 

  • It helps with my posture. 
  • It was easy to understand. 
  • I like the stretching.
  • Good exercises and good use of time.
  • Having people to workout with and not being alone.
  • The exercises were simple, and they got my heartbeat up. I like sharing highs and lows.
  • Like yoga and breathing exercises.
  • An encouraging atmosphere.

Students suggested as improvements: 

  • Increase the intensity
  • Make them a little harder.
  • Add intense exercises, such as abs and cardio
  • Do more tree poses

Further, the majority of Horizons students noted desirable outcomes from the summertime fitness program:

  • I lost some weight
  • I gained muscle and became more flexible
  • My mind and body felt like they had improved
  • My posture is better
  • My brain is functioning a little better even though I have other issues
  • I’m more relaxed
  • I have more energy and am more knowledgeable about fitness
  • I feel balanced and am drinking more water
  • My body changed from the stretching

Objective data was collected for five measures (right and left leg balance tests, 30-second chair stand, modified push-up test and curl-up test). Students’ mean scores improved during the nine weeks for 4 measures, specifically balance, push-ups and curl-ups. Results of a brief virtual fitness program are encouraging!   

Questions? Contact Dr. Brian Geiger, Executive Director, bgeiger@horizonsschool.org

Prevention Practices

There is much media coverage about the coronavirus (COVID-19). Horizons students may feel anxious or overwhelmed by many different messages. Help us to prepare for students’ return to campus by reviewing the following ways we will help to ensure the safety of students and staff. Click here to review our prevention practices.

Balancing the Good & Bad

Dr. Brian Geiger, Executive Director, gives his thoughts on what is happening in the world today and how our students and families can cope and contribute to the greater good.

Guest Speaker: Phil Klebine

Independence Means Being in Control of Your Life

Phil Klebine* came by to speak with Horizons students about his experiences living life with a disability, to give students advice and answer their questions. Phil began by talking about his disability. He was paralyzed from the chest down due to a C-5 spinal injury as a result of a car crash when he was 18 years old. Since that time, he has learned how to take control of his life, which is how he defines independence.

“You’re going to have setbacks along the way whether you have a disability or not,” he said. “It’s okay to fail; that’s how you learn about yourself and what you can do.” Phil referenced how he applied and interviewed for numerous jobs before someone gave him a chance.


“Pat yourself on the back occasionally – when you reach a goal or overcome a setback.”

According to Phil, college and post-secondary programs are about “sticking it out.” You have to have the motivation to do something. Finding purpose and meaning in life will give you the motivation you need to overcome obstacles along the way.

A key piece of advice he imparted to our students was in regards to the concept of independence. Some mistakenly believe that it means doing or being able to do everything for yourself. Phil disagrees. Independence is more about being in control of you life. You should know when to ask for help and what resources are available to you.

“Everyone needs help sometimes; never be afraid to ask for help”

*Phil is the Knowledge Translation Director for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) School of Medicine. He started off as a client of Disability Rights and Resources and now sits on their Board of Directors.