The USC gym system is just not working

USC hosts nearly 21,000 undergraduate students and two gyms. Although the school claims that “if a student is registered for a minimum of 1 unit, they will receive access to the gym as a part of tuition,” it’s only fair to address the fact that the word “access” does a lot of heavy lifting. Trying to book a reservation at one of the two gyms is a workout in itself.

For those unfamiliar, USC uses a booking portal for its students to reserve specific time slots. However, there are only 100 spots available per slot, and the times vary from an hour and 15 minutes to two hours. Additionally, the earliest you can reserve a spot is two days in advance.

The most prevalent issue that comes with such a system is the rapidness with which slots are reserved. If a time is not secured within an hour (sometimes even 10 to 15 minutes) or so after becoming available, then it’ll likely be gone by the time you check the portal. Some people have even resorted to setting timers on their phone for the moment the slots open or continuously refreshing the site in the hopes that someone drops their reservation right before going. 

It’s honestly confusing as to how the University could think two gyms would be enough to capacitize the number of students at USC. On any given weekday, USC Village Fitness Center offers around 11 time slots, while the Lyon Center offers around 14. That means that each day, there are theoretically enough slots for 2,500 students.

Although 2,500 available slots in a given day may seem like enough, it also has to be brought to attention that the gyms are available for all staff, faculty and students — undergraduate and graduate. That means a total of almost 50,000 students, 4,700 full-time faculty and 16,614 staff. That’s 2,500 slots available for 57,000 people — enough to cover just over 4% of the people the University claims the gyms are open to. 

Of course, it’s safe to assume that not everyone intends on going to the gym every day, or that those students, staff and faculty from around the area might be able to attend other locations. However, even if that 57,000 was to be halved, only about 8% of individuals can claim a spot.

The biggest issue with not having dependable access to the gym isn’t necessarily missing out on gains or the specific equipment but the routine and structure that working out provides for so many students. Dozens of studies conducted show the benefits of exercise, specifically for college students.

While the pandemic is the primary reason for this reservation system, this system and two gyms simply is not enough for the USC population. 

Exercise has been proven to heighten focus, elevate mood and lower stress, increase energy and sharpen memory — all assets for a successful college career. The Better Health Channel states that “people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing, and lower rates of mental illness.” An article from the Journal of the American Medical Association states that multiple trials have proven that “exercise was associated with reduced depression symptoms when compared with no treatment and placebo and active control groups” and that exercise has undeniably similar effects on mental health to antidepressants and psychotherapy.

There’s a great irony in the fact that USC has been emphasizing mental health awareness in recent weeks, even though there’s been absolutely no movement to modify an important resource in mental health aid.

There is an obvious solution to this problem: just open another gym. However, the intricacies of planning, building and paying for another recreation center is a process that’s impossible for most people to understand. On the other hand, if the school really wants to flaunt its money as it’s been doing this past year in a way that would directly benefit the Trojan community, then opening another gym might just be the solution worth pushing for.

Clarification: This article was updated to reflect that the earliest USC gym reservations can be made is 48 hours in advance, not that you “can only reserve a slot exactly two days in advance.”