Fitness for students: intimidating or invigorating?
Students pour out of the Little Bob, clad in workout clothing with water bottles in hand, while across campus, others sit in Perkins purposely as far away from the gym as possible.
For many students, working out is a habit, something to clear their headspace and keep them healthy. But for others, it’s daunting, the last place they want to be, which turns them off from being active altogether.
“It can be very intimidating to come into the gym with all this equipment, machines and people who all seem like they know what they’re doing,” Joshua Davis, a group fitness instructor, personal trainer and emergency medicine doctor, says.
He believes that there is never an excuse to skip working out. He teaches ten classes a week, in addition to his full-time job.
“Everybody who seems like they know what they’re doing doesn’t necessarily know what they’re doing,” Davis says with a smile. “Little things are important. You don’t have to have super fancy equipment, or a personal trainer. Very simple things for wellness and fitness are baby steps forward, especially for people who haven’t really experienced fitness before.”
After speaking to many students about their fitness opinions, it became increasingly clear that fitness is a personal virtue. Some people might feel comfortable going to a gym and exercising on their own, but others might benefit more from group workouts or classes, such as yoga or Zumba.
“I usually like to stretch better, because being flexible is more important to me,” Mia Montgomery, a junior wildlife and conservation major, says. “I feel like it clears my mind. Yoga is a better fit for me than hardcore ab workouts or lifting.”
A study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that people gravitate toward the workout energy of others. For those who are intimidated by the gym, group fitness classes can be the solution.
“I’m not a gym person, but I grew up with dance,” Alison Varghese, a senior exercise science major, says. “When I go to the gym, it’s for Zumba Club. I always get nervous that I’m not doing the right things — and I want a full body workout when I’m working out — so that’s why I like Zumba.”
Martha Buell is a professor in Human Development and Family Sciences. She also works as a Zumba instructor for the Wellness Program, instructing faculty and staff in fitness, in addition to being the advisor for the university’s Zumba Club. She believes that students need to make working out a habit in order to participate in fitness actively.
“You need about 30 days to really start a habit, but once something is a habit, it’s just sort of a given, and there’s this shift in your mindset,” Buell says. “You’re setting yourself up for a healthy trajectory.”
To make fitness a more comfortable and attainable goal for all students, it’s important to acknowledge that working out should be an individual practice, and regardless of the way one chooses to embrace it, it’s incredibly beneficial to both physical and mental health.
“I think college students are focused on the physical aspect of it, and a lot of it is, but really, give that part a rest and just think about how good it is for your mind,” Buell says. “You’re working out for yourself. It’s a gift that you give yourself. It’s good for your body, it’s really good for your mind, and sometimes, that’s even more important.”