Fitness classes at HelWell should be free for all students

Lifting weights and running on a treadmill in the Lerner Health and Wellness Center can quickly get old, especially if you already find yourself struggling to get to the gym. Although HelWell offers plenty of equipment for students to use at no charge — like cardio equipment, basketball courts and indoor tracks — students are required to either purchase a pass for fitness classes or pay a drop-in fee. These restrictions discourage many students from getting to the gym because most don’t want to pay more than they already do for the high price of tuition. But many students do prefer to work out with the structure and encouragement built into a class. Fitness classes at HelWell should be free for students not only to encourage them to stay active, but also to relieve them of another burdening cost they shouldn’t need to pay.

As of now, students can choose from 10 different group fitness classes like zumba, cycling and yoga, but only if they’re willing to pay a fee. Although students are offered five options for purchasing a pass, the $79 per semester pass makes the most sense for students who want to regularly go to classes, as students can then drop into an unlimited number of classes any time they want. These classes are also offered at different times to work with students’ busy schedules. If students don’t feel like spending that much when they’re already paying more than $60,000 to attend GW per year, they can choose from other options such as a drop-in class for $11, a five-class pack for $47 or an unlimited monthly pass for $45. But students shouldn’t be subject to any cost just to work out.

Cartoon by Grace Lee

Cartoon by Grace Lee

These various fitness classes can be beneficial to students because they’re structured and tend to be more enjoyable and dynamic than just working out on an elliptical for 30 minutes. The classes make working out more fun, and students get a chance not only to meet new people but also engage with an instructor, who can make sure they have correct form and help them get the best workout. Those who work out with a trainer also experience an increase in motivation to do physical activity, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports, Science and Medicine.

GW shouldn’t require that students pay even more to stay active, an initiative the school should strongly encourage. If HelWell’s classes were free to students, I would definitely take advantage of all of the different options and attend three classes a week.

Faculty members looking to use HelWell must purchase either a monthly or yearly gym membership – for $40 and $474, respectively – and the fitness classes are included with the gym membership. If students are required to pay tuition to attend GW, it makes sense to also include the fitness classes in the cost, instead of only allowing them to use some of HelWell’s facilities.

Although students can take a one-credit Lifestyle, Sport, and Physical Activity class at no charge, they can’t enjoy all of the options HelWell offers to passholders. Currently, I’m enrolled in an LSPA cycling class which meets twice a week, but I don’t enjoy using the cardio machines at HelWell on my own time. I never know how long I should be working out or what weight machines I could benefit from, but I would like to try yoga and zumba and prefer structured classes with a knowledgeable instructor.

The LSPA classes can’t substitute the HelWell classes because each one-credit class only covers one designated activity, such as pilates, basketball and cardio-kick-boxing. Students can’t shake things up and try a variety of different classes when enrolled in an LSPA, and some students may not even have the time for a weekly LSPA class. HelWell gives them more flexibility in what classes they can attend and when.

Other universities like Catholic University, Boston College and Georgetown University all offer fitness classes at their recreation centers to students at no additional charge, meaning the classes are covered by tuition. By not offering their fitness classes to students for free, GW is putting itself at a disadvantage as the University tries to become more affordable and competitive.

HelWell does need funding to function like any other facility on a college campus, but it doesn’t make sense to put that financial burden on students. If HelWell is going to require students to pay anywhere from $11 for one class to $79 for unlimited classes a semester, then chances are that a lot of students – including myself – will instead use the free equipment to avoid having to spend any more money.

Students are already spending a lot of money to attend GW. They don’t need an additional charge to discourage them from being healthy and working out in fun ways, so it’s time for fitness classes at HelWell to be covered in our tuition.

Christina DeBartolomeo, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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