Sara Merken: Consider taking an exercise course next semester

Every semester, many of us have the same problem: It’s hard to make time to exercise. When the day is over, and homework, internships and meetings are out of the way, Netflix and Ben & Jerry’s sound far more appealing than going to the gym. Saturdays and Sundays are spent relaxing, rather than expending too much energy. Simply put, working out doesn’t always feel worth it.

Class registration is underway, and there is one way to easily work exercise into your schedule. If you have any room in your schedule, you should consider taking a Lifestyle, Sport and Physical Activity course. Not only will this force you to exercise, but it will act as a built-in stress reliever – and you’ll receive one credit for being fit.

If you take a look at the course selection, you’ll notice that no matter what type of exercise interests you, there’s an LSPA class for it – more than 33 of them. There are also classes available for students with a variety of fitness levels: from more relaxed options like meditation and yoga, to more intense activities like cardio kickboxing and hiking.

This semester, I took my first LPSA course: conditioning with weights. Instead of lagging behind already muscular student athletes like I had anticipated, I walked into class on the first day to find 17 people exactly like me who wanted to get stronger and understand how to use machines at the gym. Many LSPA courses are designed to suit beginners, and students who lack experience shouldn’t feel intimidated.

My instructor uses some classes to explain new workouts and demonstrate how to use different equipment in the gym, rather than just going through our normal routine. Without his help, I would have no idea which settings to use on the machines, or which muscle group each exercise is strengthening.

I’ll be the first to admit that although I love the class, it can sometimes be difficult to find the motivation to go to the gym every Monday and Wednesday morning. Sometimes I would rather be sleeping, or catching up on work.

But since sleeping in means missing a class rather than just a workout, I make myself to get out of bed. By committing to an LSPA course, students can more easily carve out 50 minutes twice a week exclusively for exercise. Plus, there’s no excuse to slack off when it’s consistently part of your schedule and class attendance is mandatory.

Because there’s an attendance requirement for these classes, students feel accountable, and often develop better discipline, said Patti Plaza, the director of health education and physical activity programs in the department of exercise and nutrition sciences.

“Being able to develop a habit of regular exercise and maintaining that habit supports students in managing their stress and getting physically fit,” Plaza said.

I’ve found that at the end of each class, I really feel accomplished. After just three months, I am more confident in my strength and abilities. I’ve also noticed that on the days I don’t work out, I am stressed and less productive. Instead of making me tired throughout the day, I’ve learned that exercise can actually make me feel more alert.

“Students have these chronic stressors, meaning they have little stressors all day long, or throughout the day on a regular basis,” Plaza said. “Exercising gets all of that energy that we build up in our bodies from the daily stressors that we experience out of our system.”

Among the many LSPA courses offered next semester, I hope to take the intermediate level of conditioning with weights to build on the skills I am learning in my class right now. I plan on taking an exercise course each semester until I graduate, so I can maintain a steady exercise schedule.

All students should be exercising for the benefit of their physical and mental health. We each have the personal responsibility to work out, because there’s nobody yelling at us to get out of bed each morning. It’s up to us, and an LSPA class could be the little push we need.

Sara Merken, a junior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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