Group classes crucial for staying fit in college

USC provides a variety of group exercise classes, which are imperative to staying fit in college, according to a new study.

In shape · Pamela Crawford, a master trainer, instructed Shayna Turk, a sophomore majoring in psychology. Group classes are key to remaining fit. - Jennifer Schultz | Daily Trojan

The top motivator for college students to work out is having educated professionals at their universities’ fitness centers to teach group classes such as yoga, aerobics and Zumba, according to an American College of Sports Medicine survey of the top fitness trends for 2012 published in the November issue of Health & Fitness Journal.

Leora Mitzner, a student teacher and yoga instructor at the Lyon Center, said it is easier for students to commit to a weekly group exercise class than to work out alone.

“When students attend a group class, it becomes part of their schedule like their academic classes, and so they’re much less likely to skip out when school gets stressful,” Mitzner said. “Although the attendance for my classes still dwindles around midterms, I’ve found that the few who stay committed have the best experience at these times. One student told me that my morning yoga class was the one thing that got him through the day.”

Melissa Rocque, a senior majoring in international relations (global business), said she has been attending spin, yoga and Pilates classes regularly since she was a freshman.

“It’s more motivating when you’re in a group of people because it increases the competitive drive,” Rocque said. “If I’m spinning by myself it’s easy to slack off, but it’s much more motivating when you see a group of people working hard around you.”

She said this keeps her motivated to go to the gym during midterms.

“As a student, you get busy as classes and activities happen,” Rocque said. “It’s really nice to have your workout be a kind of social thing when you have all those other things going on.”

Sarah Francis, a senior majoring in health promotion and disease prevention studies and public health, said blocking out specific times to work out and having motivating instructors makes group workouts useful.

“You’re guaranteed to work out for a certain amount of time, whether it’s 45 minutes or an hour, so it makes you work out longer than if you just came on your own,” Francis said. “It’s a better workout because you have instructors pushing you; it’s a longer workout and it’s more fun because you can bring friends and make it more social.”

Some students, however, said they prefer to work out by themselves. Chris Zao, a graduate student studying computer science engineering, said he only has time to work out late in the day.

“I work out at 11 p.m., when there are no group classes being held at the Lyon Center,” Zao said. “Because of my busy schedule as a graduate student, working out at night four times a week is the only time I get.”

Daniel Heller, a yoga teacher at Lyon Center and USC web services staff member, said students do not have to neglect their bodies if they do not have time to work out.

“Study and meditation over a prolonged period of time are what yoga was invented for,” Heller said. “I’d tell busy students to try holding simple or restorative yoga poses while studying, if you aren’t too self-conscious or confined to a library.”

Certain poses might also help students stay awake, Heller said.

“If you’re exhausted and have to finish a reading assignment, lie down on your back with legs vertical and feet flexed, holding your book above your eyes,” Heller said. “You can’t fall asleep without dropping a book on your head, and after a few minutes you and all your abdominals will be awake.”