Dec 10, 2019

Setting the pace for fitness programs

'I've kind of been known here in the department as the utility player,' David Baldis said about getting involved.
Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian

Mark Baldis is always moving –– and soon –– the Clovis Police Department will try to keep up with him.

Each year, the city of Clovis sends its firefighters and police officers to the kinesiology department, where Baldis works, for fitness testing. The firefighters were tested this past fall.

Starting in March, it has been the Clovis police officers’ turn.

“We do a fitness testing program on them where we test all the components of fitness,” Baldis said.

The program started a decade ago just before Baldis came to Fresno State as a kinesiology lecturer in 2000.

The city of Clovis wanted to create an ongoing wellness program to help improve and maintain the overall health of the city’s firefighters and police officers.

The testing program includes a grip strength test to determine overall upper body condition, treadmill tests monitored by an electro cardiogram, flexibility measurements, blood tests and body fat percentage analysis.

The kinesiology department tracks the information for each officer and firefighter yearly. Mike Coles, Ph.D., and Tim Anderson, Ph.D., work alongside Baldis to coordinate the program, and Coles credits Baldis’ practicality for making it successful.

“He brings a non-academic perspective to real world applications,” Coles said. “He brings a pace that is like that of the real world.”

For Baldis, keeping track of progress is vital to making sure that the programs remain beneficial.

“The information is given to each of the personnels to help them understand their present levels of fitness,” Baldis said. “They can see throughout the years how their health is changing, better or worse.”

The blood drawn from the officers is sent to a lab where it is screened for cholesterol levels, the probability of diabetes and early signs of prostate cancer.

“A couple years ago an officer’s blood results showed early signs of prostate cancer. The officer was alerted, diagnosed and treated. He’s fine now,” Baldis said.

Another Clovis police officer was running a treadmill test that Baldis was monitoring. Baldis noticed abnormalities in the electro cardiogram and heard the officer complain of leg pain. Baldis stopped the test and referred him to a doctor.

About a week later, Baldis received a phone call. It was the officer.

The officer called from the hospital after he had just undergone an emergency triple bypass surgery. He wanted to thank Baldis and his colleagues for catching the problem.

“It demonstrates the importance of preventative medicine,” Baldis said. “That’s the whole point of the program.”

The investment in preventative health care by the city of Clovis works out for everyone, Baldis said. The city is able to lower its insurance and workman’s compensation costs, as well as care for its officers and firefighters. Baldis said the officers like it because it keeps them up to date on their health conditions.

Student and faculty members can take the same percentage body fat tests that the kinesiology department offers the Clovis firefighters and police officers. There is a $15 charge to take any of the three different percentage body fat tests the department offers.

“Percent body fat is much more indicative of overall health than weight,” Baldis said. “Weight, unlike percent body fat, is relative to gravity. If we flew you out and landed you on Jupiter, you would weigh a lot more than you do now.”

Baldis spent years working in various clinics helping Alzheimer’s patients improve their overall mobility, strengthening post operation outpatients as an orthopedics specialist, and designing activities for mentally disturbed children.

“Most of the years that I worked in the clinics, I worked in outpatient orthopedics which is what I really like to do,” Baldis said.

Besides academic and clinical experience, Baldis’ athletics experience makes him perfect for the job. He has competed in racquetball, tennis, golf and basketball, to name a few. The 26.6-mile San Francisco Marathon, advanced degrees in martial arts and several triathlon competitions also fill Baldis’ athletic resume.

Presently, he is working towards a doctorate in exercise science and applying for an associate professor’s position at Fresno State, having received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in exercise science from the university. He is also the only kinesiology faculty member to teach in all four options of the curriculum, as well as an anatomy course in the physical therapy department.

“I’ve kind of been known here in the department as the utility player,” Baldis said referring to the variety of classes he teaches.

His days of triathlons and martial arts may be over, but Baldis continually pushes his passion for athletics and fitness in other directions. Clovis police officers and firefighters are a slice of the community that benefit from this passion.

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