Leisure activities combat workplace sloth

Replacing the printer down the office hall with desktop printers in every cubicle is one factor contributing to a decrease in workplace activity over the last 20 years.

Researchers at the University conducted a study about how Twin Cities residents are making up for the exercise they once got at work, and found that many are compensating through “leisure-time physical activity,” anything from gardening to riding a bicycle.

Lyn Steffen is an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University and the first author of the study.

“People should be physically active for one hour a day,” Steffen said.

While total hours spent exercising has increased between the years of the study, from 1980 to 2000, people still are not exercising enough and the obesity epidemic is continuing, Steffen said.

Steffen said the study revealed that men exercise more than women, and college-educated people exercise more than those without a college education.

But, even though activity is higher among college-educated people, activity in the workplace is declining, she said.

People routinely send e-mail to co-workers rather than walk down the hall to tell them something, Steffen said, and the amount of time sitting down at work has increased.

College students can avoid this by creating a routine and finding exercise they enjoy, like walking the dog, bowling or cross-country skiing, Steffen said.

Even simple things, like taking the stairs, parking the car away from the building and changing a walking pace to “brisk” are sources of physical activity, Steffen said.

“It’s easier to exercise with a friend,” she said. “The time just flies by.”

Student activity

The University offers more than 50 sports or recreational clubs, according to the Student Activities Office Web site, which gives students a wide variety of activities to choose from.

Individualized studies senior Laura Gill gets her exercise with the University of Minnesota Women’s Rugby Club.

Despite the stereotype that rugby is a brutal sport, Gill said the game is highly structured.

“I think there’s a lot of athleticism and grace to rugby players that many people miss,” she said.

Gill said she played rugby in high school, but added that not every player had experience before joining the club.

Even so, the team is highly successful, Gill said, and has won many state tournaments and last year qualified for the Division II Final Four tournament.

The University offers many opportunities for club sports that venture out of the normal basketball/football realm of high school.

David Bruce is the president of the Alpine Ski Club, which is self-funded and competes through the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association at tournaments throughout the Midwest.

The ski club is sometimes more like a social club, Bruce said, but the team is highly competitive. The members do their best to stay in shape year-round.

In the summer, Bruce plays Ultimate Frisbee, and in the fall he trains with the team on dry-land slopes.

Recreational activities are also available for students with disabilities at the University, and the Adaptive Sports Club aims to raise awareness about them.

This is the first year of the Adaptive Sports Club, said Jessica Novotny, an associate program director for the recreational sports department.

Uriah McKinney, a continuing education student and an officer of the Adaptive Sports Club, said the club was created to let students know that adaptive equipment is available to help disabled students use University facilities or participate in sports.

McKinney said that he found out several weeks ago that there is an off-campus site to rent canoes with specialized equipment and training.

It’s not hard for students to be active even if they need adaptive equipment, said McKinney.

“Many students aren’t aware that some very basic adaptive equipment is available,” he said.

Most recreational facilities on campus provide specialized equipment available at the front desk, McKinney said.

So far, the Adaptive Sports Club has worked on raising awareness of activities and equipment available to disabled students, McKinney said, but the club partnered with the Disabled Student Cultural Center for the kick-off event of Disabilities Awareness Month.

The club invited students to play wheelchair basketball along with members of the Rolling Gophers and the Rolling Timberwolves, he said.

McKinney said his favorite game is called “goalball,” in which players are blindfolded and must score by throwing balls with bells in the center of them.

“The thing that I think most people aren’t aware of is that there’s such a plethora of sports available,” he said. “Not just sports, you can basically adapt almost any kind of activity.”