Attend class, study, eat, sleep and go to the occasional (or more often than that) party or two — all activities that define the typical college students. Sometimes, however, we get so caught up with our academic and social obligations that staying fit becomes the last thing on our minds.
Last fall, the National College Health Assessment compiled by the American College Health Association revealed that more than half of college students do not meet the recommendations for “moderate or vigorous exercise.” To elaborate, The American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association says these recommendations include “cardio or aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes on five or more days a week, or vigorous [exercise] for at least 20 minutes on three or more days of the week.”
Students who do not exercise at these standards put themselves at higher risk for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes.
Without the physical education requirements or relative ease of joining high school sports, college students often find themselves putting workouts at the bottom of their priority lists. But many programs and events are striving to help students stay fit, including a commendable initiative that USC takes part in annually.
The recent Pac-10 Fitness Challenge invited USC students and faculty to log their hours working out in a friendly competition against the other universities in the league. A total of 17,450 people participated across the conference, with Arizona State University taking first place.
A major motivation for students to join in on the activities in the Pac-10 challenge was competing against crosstown rival UCLA. Much of the student competition can only play out this rivalry by cheering in the stands — we scream, chant, sing and throw up the sign of victory, but in the end, there isn’t much we can really do to change what is happening. But this amateur-yet-fun way of competing gave students an opportunity for role reversal — students could now be the athletes. They could now see their results being counted in the totals.
But competing against UCLA isn’t the only method of becoming fit, remaining healthy and relieving stress: Intramural competitions between student housing complexes and teams from different student organizations and schools promote friendly contests and increase school spirit.
Playing sports and exercising doesn’t need to be time-consuming or in organized teams either. For those who complain that an hour of exercise takes away from their time studying (I mean, Facebook), alternative ways to approaching exercising gives them no excuse to shy away.
There are no lack of resources available to students at USC to increase physical fitness — but not enough students avail themselves of the chance to drastically improve their health.
Instead of the usual lunch at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, friends can meet in McCarthy Quad for a game of Frisbee or flag football. Rather than picking up the phone to gossip about the weekend’s events, students can walk side-by-side on a treadmill or take a stroll along Trousdale Parkway. And instead of riding a bicycle as far as you can before a Department of Public Safety officer catches you and enforces the bike ban along Trousdale, you can consider walking between classes.
Exercising can be a recreational activity that is enjoyable and convenient — well worth the energy spent if it helps ensure health in the present and future.
So the next time your favorite TV show is on and you’re tempted to plop down on the couch with a bowl of chips and salsa, consider killing two birds with one stone — walk to the Lyon Center or nearest fitness center and plug in your earphones.
Alice Wen is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.