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Recreation Motivation: Students weigh views on importance of fitness

By Kasia Fejklowicz
On April 16, 2012

Late night pizza. Ramen noodles. Beer. All-nighters.

How health-focused are today's college students? In college it's easy for students to tell themselves that they don't actually have time to exercise because of their homework or busy work schedules.

In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, research shows that the most dramatic decline in exercise is found in college students, especially males.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mathew Kwan, a researcher at McMaster University in Canada reported that students are less active in college probably because they are no longer playing organized sports for their high school.

DePaul junior Jordan DiLeonardi is one of those students who played baseball in high school, but does not participate in sports since he started college. Though he admits that he does watch what he eats, he doesn't make an effort to exercise.

Common Exercise Myths


Swimming is a great weight loss activity.

Swimming is great for increasing lung capacity, toning muscles and burning off excess tension. Although unless you swim for hours a day, it may not help you lose much weight.

Your cardio machine is counting the calories you're burning.

Caloric burning depends on one's age, fitness level, BMI and sex. Different sexes at different fitness levels and BMIs burn calories at different rates and some machines don't even ask for weight or sex.

Running on a treadmill puts less stress on your knees than running on asphalt or pavement.

Running is a great workout, but it can impact the knees -- and since it's the force of your body weight on your joints that causes the stress, it's the same whether you're on a treadmill or on asphalt.

It's good to drink a protein shake after every workout.

While protein shakes are good for emergencies, they are a very low quality processed product. The best way to get protein is through foods like turkey, beef, yogurt and nuts.

"I'm just really lazy. I'm not a frat guy," said DiLeonardi. "I'm not trying to overtly impress people."

He also joked about running on a treadmill at the Ray. "Nobody is chasing me, so why would I go running?" he asked, smiling.

Coming into college, the 'freshman 15' looms over many students. Dr. Julie Roth, an internal medicine and nutrition specialist at Chicago Lake Shore Medical Associates, cites some common mistakes in students' attempts to lose weight.

"I think the biggest thing is the late night studying and eating; it's all high carbohydrates, calories and fat," said Roth. "It's really about the indulgences that come with independence."

Junior Victoria Prasil said that exercise is a priority for her.

"I just make my schedule every week and make time for exercise like I would for a class," Prasil said. "Eating healthy [also] makes such a difference."

Prasil drinks 10 glasses of water every day and she tries to stay away from bread. She also eats tons of fruits, nuts, turkey burgers, and she makes sure to have two pieces of dark chocolate every morning as a reward.

DePaul senior Brittany Lewis agrees that healthy eating and fitness go together. "When I start my day working out, it makes me want to eat healthier," she said.

According to WebMD there are countless benefits of working out. Exercising daily is crucial in maintaining your body weight but it does more than tone your body. It strengthens your muscles, keeps bones strong, and improves your complexion. It also minimizes the amount of stress hormones in your body. This is because exercise on a regular basis slows your heart rate and reduces your blood pressure.

A national health and nutrition examination survey showed that people who make exercise a priority are less likely to be depressed because of the amount of endorphins that are released during physical activity.

No one would argue the benefits of exercise, but at the very highest it would come third on a student's list of what's important. Kwan also believes that for a college student school is most important, but what also takes up a majority of a college student's time is their social life.

Gina Caifano, a fitness instructor at DePaul's Ray Meyer Fitness Center suggests students utilize the Ray.

"Exercise makes you sleep better," said Caifano. She also said that adding strengthening tratining to your daily routine has been proven to enhance memory.

"Instead of going out to drink, bring a friend to a class [at the Ray]," Caifano said.

For students, exercising is one of the cheapest ways to stay healthy, and for undergraduate students at DePaul a Ray Meyer membership is included in their tuition. A part-time student can become a member at the Ray for $82 dollars per quarter in comparison to Lincoln Park residents who must pay $83 per month plus a $150 initiation fee.

DePaul alumni, Ariana Vella, said that she hates exercising. "It probably has a lot to do with having to fit it in my schedule, which is difficult to do," Vella said.

For some students, the hardest part can be physically getting themselves to the gym. If you think that the gym is too far away, well here is the good news: your walk there counts as your warm-up and walk back can be your cool-down. And a good workout can be as quick as 30 minutes.

Caifano said that finding a class will motivate you to go to the Ray, instead of just planning on going to work out on the machines.

"Don't be nervous taking a class. Everyone is at a different level," said Caifano. "The instructors at the Ray are there to help you achieve your goals and work at your own pace."

The Ray offers a variety of classes at no extra cost. They offer traditional classes such as cycling and muscle work group as well as unique classes like Zumba and African Dance Party.

They are also a great source if you feel like you have fallen into a routine. Spice up your routine with a Pilates or a yoga class. So, what are you waiting for? Put that coffee down and instead hit the gym to get energized!

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