Kelsey Bourbeau

Instructor, Kinesiology
(319) 273-2613

Department of Kinesiology
WRC 203
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0241


What drove your interest in this discipline? I love the idea of using exercise as medicine for various clinical disorders, specifically mental health disorders. Struggling with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety is very common. Learning that exercise can initiate molecular changes that improve mental health prompted my passion for the field of exercise physiology.

Why you enjoy what you do: I recently wrote a letter of recommendation for a student applying to a graduate program. The student explained that he felt I was the first teacher that has truly believed in his abilities to succeed in the medical field. The student was accepted to the graduate program and I feel so proud of his handwork and thankful that I could be a resource to him.

Teaching philosophy: While I am passionate about the field of exercise science, I believe that teaching spans further than simply relaying course content. I believe that successful teaching allows students to spark and foster their passions and recognize their personal strengths. I also believe that students learn best in an environment in which they trust the content and the person providing it to them. Further, I believe that all students have a unique way of learning and incorporating various modes of teaching augment the student learning experience. Thus, my teaching philosophy is rooted in the principles of inclusiveness, preparedness, and employing various methods of instruction.  

What do you hope students learn from you? I hope my students learn that if they find passion in their coursework, they can make a huge difference in others' lives. It is so important that they know that their hard work today will reap benefits for not only themselves, but those that will impact in the future.

Areas of Expertise: 

The anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects of exercise
Cognitive benefits of exercise

Research Interests: 

My specific areas of focus are related to the impact of exercise on a specific neurotransmitter (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). This neurotransmitter plays a role in several mental illnesses, addiction and cognition. My research interests center around using exercise as adjunct therapy to traditional treatments to help individuals struggling with their mental health. I am also knowledgeable about the impact of aerobic exercise on cognition and the physiological changes related to the cognitive benefits of exercise. Further, I have studied the cellular and whole-body adaptations associated with heat stress and exercise.

Selected Publications: 

Bourbeau, K., Moriarty, T., Ayanniyi, A., & Zuhl, M. (2020). The Combined Effect of Exercise and Behavioral Therapy for Depression and Anxiety: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Behavioral Sciences, 10(7), 116.

Gothe, N. P., Bourbeau, K.C., (2020) Associations Between Physical Activity Intensities and Physical Function in Stroke Survivors. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 

Moriarty, T.A., Bourbeau, K.C., Mermier, C., Gibson, A., Kravitz, L., Beltz, N., Zuhl, M.N. (2020). Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation improves cognitive function among CVD patients. Clinical rehabilitation. In submission.  

Moriarty, T., Bourbeau, K., Zuhl M. (2019). Exercise and neural adaptations: designing a novel treatment for alcohol addiction. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 

Bourbeau, K. C., Rosinski, M., Szczygiel, T., Pettit-Mee, R., Sessions, J., & Zuhl, M. N. (2018). The Stress Response in Human Peripheral Mononuclear Cells is Related to Aerobic Fitness and Body Mass Index. Gazzetta Medica Italiana.  


Master's degree, Central Michigan University, exercise physiology, 2015
Bachelor's degree, Central Michigan University, kinesiology with minor in leadership, 2013.
Currently pursuing Ph.D. in exercise science from the University of New Mexico and plan to graduate in summer 2021.