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  • Grace Brown

Palisano could be put to better use

The facilitation of group fitness on college campuses has an observable effect on student grades. (Ally Wagner for The Griffin)

Over the course of about two years, Canisius converted the multi-use Palisano Pavilion building into a fully equipped fitness center intended for use by non-athlete students. Beginning in 2019, the construction was a response to student complaints over the lack of workout space for the general student body and had to be extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally opening in February of 2021, the gym features numerous machines and weight sets, cardio equipment and abundant natural light, thereby proving itself an impressive facility. In the gym’s center there is an enclosed studio room, suitable for small classes or personal exercise.

However, the lacking utilization of this room is disappointing. While it lends itself ideally to group classes and instructor-led workouts, exercise of this kind has yet to be scheduled or planned. Community-based exercise is extremely beneficial to a large percentage of active people. Many find it easier not only to motivate themselves — improving the consistency of their routine as a result — but also to push the limits of their physical exertion farther as well in an atmosphere of shared excitement and encouragement.

This is evident in the countless community-based gyms with soaring memberships in Buffalo and around the nation. From yoga to CrossFit to biking, people are passionate about fitness and appear more than willing to pay high prices for instructor-led, group classes.

In fact, it is arguable that many become attracted to regular exercise as a consequence of the community-based approach taken by many modern gyms. The inclusion of familiar faces in exercise increases personal accountability and reduces the intimidation which may often be felt by less athletically practiced individuals embarking on a new endeavor.

Moreover, students have experienced observable benefits from the social aspect of community-based exercise. A Purdue University study indicated a correlation between student attendance in group exercise classes and lower stress levels, as well as higher confidence. This seems like a logical conclusion, given the lack of mobility faced by many students with busy class schedules.

Students working jobs in addition to managing a full workload especially suffer from an overabundance of tasks, therefore resulting in the sacrifice of physical exertion or social interaction. Pent-up energy and isolation undoubtedly lead to frustration, illustrating the need for group exercise on college campuses.

In addition, the facilitation of group fitness on college campuses has an observable effect on student grades. Those colleges and universities encouraging regular exercise and community-style classes amongst their student body indicated average GPAs that were 13 percent higher than those of institutions lacking such programs. Yet again, it is clear that prioritizing activity and socialization promises to benefit not only students but simultaneously the entire university or college, as well.

If it is established that group exercise is overall beneficial to a higher education institution and that the fitness center presents a perfectly suited space to hold such classes, it would only seem logical for Canisius to implement a regular gym schedule featuring events of this style. Ideally, the schedule could feature morning and evening classes, so as to provide equal opportunity for attendance to students managing different class schedules and workloads, along with potential work-study requirements. Additionally, a variety of class styles, ranging from mobility and strength training to cardio and endurance training, would likewise suit the preferences and goals of the diverse student population.

The issue of staffing would similarly align with the interests of the institutions. Rather than hiring outside coaches, the responsibility of instructors could be fulfilled by students concentrating their studies in the field of physical education or therapy.

To lead classes provides an exceptional opportunity for health department majors to gain valuable field experience before graduation, notably in a more comfortable and lower-stress atmosphere amongst peers. The fulfillment of these roles also offer increased work-study positions available to the student body, bolstering the ability to earn money while on-campus as well.

Canisius administration has proven itself to be cognizant of the demands of the student body before; between the construction of a non-athlete student fitness center and incoming structurally improved parking lot, expansion of dining options for those with dietary restrictions, implementation of a mask mandate to protect vulnerable students and opportunities to study on campus even amidst a pandemic — among other actions taken in recent years — the college staff appears responsive to student concerns.

It would seem logical for the institution’s next step towards improving student’s physical and mental well-being would be the commencement of community-based fitness.

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