Brown: The U Must Do Better in Promoting Physical Activity


By Jackson Brown, Opinion Writer


Throughout the pandemic, the University of Utah has put the health and wellness of students above almost everything else. Online classes, testing options and vaccination sites have greatly helped students throughout these stressful times.

Clearly, the U cares about its students. However, the U can better ensure the full health and wellness of students.

According to the International Journal of Exercise Science, college students are much less likely to exercise as they grow older. By better promoting exercise through the Student Life Center, outdoor fields and intramurals, the U could do its part in mitigating skyrocketing college obesity figures.

During my first two years of college, I most frequently used the Student Life Center. Whether I’m going to shoot hoops or go for a run, the Student Life Center has the amenities of any good gym. With this, the U holds many fitness classes to keep students engaged in activity.

However, the Student Life Center does have some disappointing drawbacks.

First, the hours of operation don’t allow for flexibility in college students’ crazy schedules. Open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. MDT on weekdays with earlier closing times on the weekends, students have limited times where they can work out after long days.

I had moments in my freshman year where all I wanted to do was shoot hoops at 11 p.m. after finishing my homework. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. If I wanted to go for a run on Saturday night, I’d have to do so before 8 p.m.

The average college student has a bedtime far later than 10 p.m., leaving night owls without exercise options through the Student Life Center. The simple explanation for these hours would be that students primarily staff the gym. However, keeping a skeleton staff of night-shift workers could potentially handle the low volume of students coming in at night.

Also, the fees levied to students to use the Student Life Center seem unnecessary. While tuition factors in gym membership fees for students taking classes, any student not currently enrolled pays additional fees.

While this may seem fair, it leaves students on summer break in the dust. Students shouldn’t need to pay for taking the summer off. College students are much less financially stable than the average American. They shouldn’t have unexpected charges dropped on them for a workout.

To encourage health and wellness in students, the U should extend free Student Life Center memberships to students who were fully enrolled in the previous semester. Since students on summer break would primarily use this during a season when the gym already hosts less people than usual, the Student Life Center likely wouldn’t reach capacity.

For now, students who don’t want to pay those fees must rely on the U’s outdoor amenities, which themselves have problems.

The U’s many outdoor amenities provide a great on-campus resource to get some fresh air. A basketball court, disc golf course, volleyball pits and many sports fields make up the impressive arsenal of outdoor spaces. These amenities would benefit student health if the U managed them well. Unfortunately, especially amid the pandemic, they have not.

Since at least early Spring, finding a field or court to exercise on has been a chore in itself. At the basketball court near Lassonde, the hoops don’t have nets. Nearly all of the surrounding fields remained locked during off-hours, funneling students into crowded multi-use fields. If those fields are open to students, lights are almost never turned on to accommodate late play.

These steps were likely taken to reduce COVID-19 hotspots on campus, but when the Student Life Center remains open, that reasoning seems illogical.

Coronavirus transmission is much lower in outdoor spaces, especially with more room to spread out. But the U makes it difficult for students to engage in outdoor activities.

With improved management and more effort, students would have the time and space to freely exercise.

For those who want to skip the headaches of the Student Life Center or the unpredictability of outdoor amenities, intramural sports provide a go-to option. The U has an expansive intramural program, with sports such as soccer, ultimate frisbee and the famous canoe battleship. Many students playing intramurals find them fun and engaging ways to exercise.

However, the U’s management of intramurals makes the process unnecessarily difficult.

To start, the website used for registration and scheduling is terrible. The U uses IMLeagues, which bombards the user with advertisements and forces them to wait longer than expected to check on your intramural team. This website, as well as poorly written rules for these sports, frustrate those who want to participate in something fun and active.

Overall, the U has made it more difficult for students to exercise. Activities as simple as going to the gym, throwing a ball around with friends or playing an intramural soccer game should be more readily accessible.

By implementing simple fixes such as extended gym hours and memberships, field access and a fully functional intramural system, the U could see a spike in student exercise. If the U really cares about the health and wellness of its students, it’s time for them to show it.


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