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10 University Fitness Centers to Fit in your Schedule

By Justin Boyle
Published: June 3, 2013

It's no secret that exercise is a huge part of overall health and wellness, but you might not think that exercise could help you study your way through college. A U.S. News & World Report article reveals that physical activity is not only user-friendly for your body, but can also benefit your brain in terms of mood, memory and -- drum roll -- learning. But how can you fit in regular exercise between classes and all the other stuff that makes up the college experience? University recreation centers like these 10 can make exercise accessible and convenient -- not to mention satisfying and fun.

  • Boston University has what's probably one of the more focused climbing gyms for college students in North America. The climbing side of the Boston University Fitness and Recreation Center features eight top-rope belay stations and a 12-foot bouldering area with problems graded up to 5.12 YDS. Climbers know what that number means, but here's a translation for the uninitiated: routes graded 5.12 on the Yosemite Decimal System are very, very hard. Other recreations at BU include court sports, a dance theater, rowing, sailing and swim lessons.
  • The Ohio State University is home to a true monster of fitness, not surprising for a school that Huffington Post ranked as second-best in the country for sports in 2011. The OSU Recreation & Physical Activity Center spans about 27,500 square feet and 12 multipurpose wood courts, including those for racquetball and squash. You may find features of the humongous facility include weight training space and equipment, Cardio Canyon, personal training, massage therapy, a juice bar, babysitting services, an aquatic center and a sporting goods store. The school also offers a rock climbing structure, a bouldering cave and adventuring trips for outdoor fitness nuts.
  • Penn State understands that not all students thrive in the same fitness environment. The Pennsylvania State University's recreational space is spread among multiple fitness centers (and don't forget the Natatorium). The White Bldg. Fitness Center is among the larger facilities and focuses on cardio and resistance training, featuring a diverse array of equipment in 15,000 square feet of space. The Fitness Loft provides a cardio-only sanctuary for endurance athletes and the Rec Hall Fitness Center is the newest of the bunch, outfitted with exercise technology such as machines with individual entertainment monitors. So you don't waste time sitting around, the school's website shows current wait times at the different facilities.
  • The University of Akron demonstrates its dedication to student fitness through a wide range of choices -- whether your goal is competition or leisure, they've got a pool for you. While the Student Recreation and Wellness Center is described as aesthetically pleasing, it's not just a pretty face. Certified student instructors lead you through classes like TurboKick and YogaFit. Campus amenities also include five gyms, a 53.5-foot rock wall and bouldering cave, multi-purpose green space and softball field. Enjoy the mega spa, warm water channel or vortex pool for unwinding after your workout.
  • University of California, Los Angeles was also ranked by the Huffington Post as a strong school for sports. The school's rec sports facilities reflect a careful attention to training, including six aquatics centers, both indoor and outdoor. UCLA's campus-wide wellness initiative FITWELL, a program for helping students strengthen their bodies and minds, features personal training, fitness education, online wellness information resources, chair massage and exercise consultants. A range of classes for small or large groups target activities like martial arts and dance. The culture of fitness at UCLA extends to cool events like a bike-powered concert.
  • University of Cincinnati Campus Recreation Center is a sight to behold. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne and Kristina Loock reveal that the geometrically experimental structure is their most complex building on this scale. The center contains 17,000 square feet of cardio and resistance training space with 21,000 pounds of free weights, an Olympic-sized lap pool, courts for racquetball and basketball, and a jogging track suspended in mid-air. The university's Fitness Center at CARE/Crawley, designed by a UC alumnus, won the Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award as well as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. It features a nine-story atrium that illuminates the interior with natural sunlight.
  • The University of Maine New Balance Student Recreation Center takes a one-of-a-kind, environmentally focused approach to fitness. For starters, the building itself is a model of sustainable architecture, having earned Silver Certification under the LEED guidelines. Exercise options also pay tribute to the environment of the region, centering on forest hiking and backpacking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and other North Country sports. Brisk weather doesn't dictate the whole range of activities on campus, though -- the New Balance Center also boasts space for lap swimming, a co-ed sauna and a 20-person hot tub.
  • University of South Carolina students are treated to most amenities available in college fitness centers, and then some. The Strom Thurmond Health and Fitness Center features saunas, sand volleyball courts and an outdoor pool with a sun deck, perfect for students who don't have the time to make the drive to the beach. An indoor running track, a climbing wall, a floor hockey and indoor soccer court, and numerous strength training stations can also be found in the three-level fitness complex. And all this is in addition to the Solomon Blatt Physical Education Center.
  • The University of South Florida takes a mixed approach to the student recreation concept. Naturally, the campus has a traditional fitness center, with row after row of cardio workout machines, resistance training equipment, basketball, soccer, aquatic facilities, group fitness classes and more. It doesn't stop there, though -- USF students can choose from an outdoor recreation catalog as well, rounding out their exercise portfolios with "real-world" activities like kayaking, disc golf, moonlight canoeing, backpacking, white water rafting and workshops on the Riverfront Park ropes course.
  • The University of Texas at Austin goes big, Texas style, with about 500,000 square feet of fitness space, but not under a single roof. The university fitness complex in the Texas capital consists of eight buildings, in which students can find numerous gyms, basketball courts and classes such as yoga, Pilates, Zumba, kickboxing, interval training and TeXercise. Fitness options include equipment with evocative names like decline benches and preacher curl stations. Informal rec activities range from dance to dodgeball. The university's outdoor activity space spans 40 acres, including fields for flag football, lacrosse turf and areas outfitted for track and field events.

University fitness centers aren't just for students -- some admit family members as well. And if you're pursuing an online degree at one of these or any college around the country, don't hesitate to look into active lifestyle resources that might be available. Anyone who's really fit will tell you: fitness isn't a goal, it's a habit. College is, for many students, the official transition into adulthood, and good habits you build throughout college can keep you going well into the later parts of your life.

Sources:

“7 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise,” health.usnews.com, Deborah Kotz and Angela Haupt. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/slideshows/7-mind-blowing-benefits-of-exercise

“Sports ‘R’ Us: The top 10 Colleges For Sports: Unigo List,” huffingtonpost.com, 22 September 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/22/sports-r-us-the-top-10-co_n_975522.html#slide=368926

"Recreation & Physical Activity Center (RPAC)," rescports.osu.edu.http://recsports.osu.edu/facilities/recreation-physical-activity-center-rpac

"CARE-Crawley Building," health.uc.edu.http://health.uc.edu/care-crawley/

About the Author

Justin Boyle is a tutor, editor and designer who works in media production for an ecology non-profit.

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