We work out

The University is prioritizing physical fitness with Rec Center renovation.

Erin Lengas

If I had to guess the last time any given student at the University of Minnesota worked out, I would say sometime in the past seven days. According to the UniversityâÄôs website, 88 percent of students take part in some sort of physical activity every week.

ThatâÄôs a pretty high percentage but when I thought about it, I can rarely walk to class without moving aside for a jogger or seeing someone heading to the Recreation Center.

 Comparing the obesity rates of the state of Minnesota to our physically fit campus backs up my observations. The state obesity rate rose to 24.8 percent in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With such a high number for the state, how does the University campus stay so slim?

According to the 2010 College Student Health Survey Report, which Boynton Health Service conducts annually, students on campus have a relatively low obesity rate. While 22.1 percent of students are overweight, only 9 percent are classified as obese.

The University needs to put in some work to match up with the University of Iowa, another school in the Big Ten conference. The Hawkeyes inch us out with an obesity rate of only 5.4 percent, according to The National College Health Assessment Summary of the University of Iowa.

The UniversityâÄôs low obesity rate is a result of our high rate of physical activity. BoyntonâÄôs CSHS reported that in 2010, 69.2 percent of students surveyed took part in high or moderate levels of physical activity each week. Those students meet the Center for Disease ControlâÄôs recommended level of physical activity.

Each day, five- to seven-thousand students visit the Recreation Center on the East Bank campus, said Jim Turman, the director for the Department of Recreational Sports.

Those of us who frequent the gym know there is nothing more frustrating than waiting for space to work out. Especially if, like me, it takes every ounce of motivation and several personal pep talks to drag yourself there in the first place.

Thankfully, the University is stepping up to accommodate studentsâÄô healthy lifestyles by expanding the East Bank Recreation Center.

Currently, the 130,000 square foot Recreation Center provides approximately 2.5 square feet per student on campus, much lower than the standard 13 square feet, Turman said.

The number one barrier to student involvement in physical activity on campus is overcrowding, according to Turman. Before the renovation, the University lagged far behind other Big Ten schools.

 Ohio State University with 55,000 students has 13.6 square feet of indoor recreational space per student.

However, the Recreation Center expansion will add 145,000 square feet of indoor space, more than doubling its current size. The renovation, along with the Aquatics Center, Cooke Hall, the field house and the St. Paul Recreation Center, will bring our campus closer to the standard, providing over 9 square feet of indoor facility space per student.

The new Recreation Center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013 and although I will only be able to enjoy it for one year, I am eager to do so. An expanded indoor workout facility will make getting in shape more exciting, and it sends a message that physical fitness is important to the University and its students.

Until the expansion is completed, every student on campus should take part in some sort of physical activity each day, Margaret Belew, a physical therapist and health coach for physical activity at Boynton, said.

Incorporating physical fitness into a daily routine, even if that means picking up the pace on the way to class, should be a priority for every student on campus.