Army vet first to receive exercise science degree

Army veteran Rachael (Gardner) Aho makes service a priority

Rachael (Gardner) Aho

Rachael (Gardner) Aho is honored to be the first graduating senior from RIT’s new BS degree in exercise science offered through the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition in the College of Health Sciences and Technology

“This degree is much more than simple piece of paper,” said Aho, from Fairport, N.Y. “It embodies all the hard work, late nights and sacrifices required to earn it.”

With a leap of faith, Aho transferred to RIT before the exercise science BS degree was officially in place. Discussions with Bill Brewer, director of exercise science at RIT, gave her confidence to begin her studies in the College of Health Sciences and Technology. In her senior year, Aho became the first student to enroll in the exercise science degree program.

“Even prior to my becoming an RIT student, Professor Brewer encouraged and promoted my interest in combining exercise with traditional medical treatment to combat chronic disease and health issues,” Aho said.

Her pursuit of exercise science is based on a commitment to serve her community. Aho enrolled in the Army after high school and was honorably discharged in 2010. A sense of service continues to guide her career choices.

“I want to help people in my community learn that exercise doesn’t have to be painful and they don’t have to struggle at a gym to be healthy,” Aho said.

She volunteered this year as a health coach through a program offered through the RIT and Rochester Regional Health Alliance. Her experiences in the training program on campus and as part of a health care team gave her valuable patient experience.

Completion of the exercise science degree this May will prepare Aho to take the Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist exam administered by the American College of Sports Medicine. This credential will enable her to pursue the career she wants using exercise to help people prevent—not just manage—chronic disease.

“My long-term goal is to eventually start my own fitness/wellness center focused on strength and cardiovascular exercise programs that include lifestyle changes and wellness programs to serve those with chronic cardiovascular, metabolic and pulmonary diseases,” Aho said. “I believe that health, fitness and lifestyle changes are key components to preventing the initial onset of many such diseases and disorders and, even if they are already present, are vital in preventing them from progressing to chronic life-threatening conditions.”

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