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Gordon: The Need for Free Fitness Classes

The U needs to take a stronger stance on student fitness to promote a greater sense of well-being and mental health clarity.
Jack Gambassi
The Student Life Center as seen from the Kahlert Village courtyard on University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on July 1, 2022. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Students struggling to find mental clarity during midterm season may not be taking advantage of a real cheat code. Countless hours of mind-numbing study sessions in the library can make studying seem never-ending. It’s hard to retain information during long sessions, and the University of Utah should make student well-being a top priority.

To do so, the U should provide free fitness classes at the on-campus Student Life Center during midterms.

Embrace Exercise

Unfortunately, burnout is a common theme in college, and students often don’t know how to control it. However, there have been numerous studies on the effect that exercise has on mental health. When exercising, our brains release endorphins that reduce stress and boost mood — an instant relief during this stressful midterm season. It was found that adults engaging in moderate physical activity, which even included brief, low-intensity sessions, experienced only half the level of perceived stress compared to their non-active working counterparts.

No matter what the benefits say, it still might be hard to incorporate an exercise routine in a busy schedule. However, ​​even light physical activity for 20 minutes can have real cognitive effects on the body and mind. The U’s campus has more than enough opportunities for walking, biking and running.

But more importantly, we must prioritize exercise by engaging in healthy breaks and taking advantage of the Student Life Center. Your mind will thank you, and so will your body.

Free Fitness Classes 

In addition, the U needs to take a stronger stance on student fitness. While easier said than done, the U should offer free exercise classes during midterms as a first step. Not only would this help students physically, but mentally as well. The idea of opening opportunities for students to come and take a break while doing something mentally stimulating should be a no-brainer.

Currently, the U offers group fitness classes for $7 a class, and an all-access fitness pass for $62.50. There are free weeks during finals, where students can participate by merely dropping in at the scheduled time. However, making all of these fitness classes free would not only remove a mental burden, but also alleviate financial stress.

The U’s fitness classes include yoga, which has various sub-categories of gentle yoga and recharge yoga that involve deep stretching and figuring out fundamentals. In addition, the U offers more advanced classes including Pilates and power yoga, which help build strength and improve flexibility.

Mentally, yoga can help students slow down, find a sense of calm and enhance their focus, making it a valuable tool for managing the stresses of academic life. But if yoga isn’t your preference, there are also various classes focused on dance, cycling and strength training, plus some classes held in pools. All these classes are taught in groups and held every day, which offers opportunities to go with friends, meet new people and forget about studying for a short period of time.

Mandatory Midterm Relief 

For many, the gym is a place where students can escape the demands of their coursework.

Tate Stricko, a U student who was working out in the Student Life Center explained that it’s important mentally to him to have an outlet to rid himself of stress.

“It’s high stress trying to get big tasks done and keep your grades up … I try to hit the gym like five days a week at least,” Stricko said. “If I don’t, I get high anxiety. Incorporating exercise into your daily tasks can offer a sense of accomplishment and routine. I just feel like most of my stress is kind of just off my back for a while.”

Exercise breaks from academic pressure not only recharge the mind but also create a healthier campus community, where fitness is important.

The responsibilities of students to complete homework, study for midterms and still have time for their personal life should not solely be on them. It’s a shared responsibility between the U, its students and faculty to provide an ideal setting for success. In recognizing the advantages of a more fitness-focused campus, the U could help students and ultimately speed up the process of implementing much-needed adjustments, like free fitness classes.


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About the Contributor
Jack Gambassi, Photographer
Jack comes from Boise, Idaho and is a senior in the Honor's College majoring in economics with minors in Italian and chemistry. He is a pre-med student and hopes to go to medical school in the fall of 2024. Jack has been taking photos as a hobby since he was eight years old. After two years at the Chronicle, this will be his third and final year. A fun fact about Jack is that he speaks Italian.

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