The role of fitness in student life is being studied more closely and the findings are trickling in. Schools are answering the demand for better recreation centers with impressive results. Their investments are certainly paying off in different ways from improved retention to higher academic performance. More institutions are encouraged to follow their example. To learn more, checkout the infographic below, created by Ohio University’s Online Master’s in Athletic Administration program.
Top US Recreation Centers
A lot of academic institutions in the United States have realized the value of sports and recreation in their overall programs. They have invested heavily in facilities, equipment, and manpower that can support the students in their wellness goals. Four of the prime examples include Auburn University, University of Texas, University of Maine, and Ohio State.
In Auburn, there is an aquatic center comprised of both indoor and outdoor pools. There is even a climbing wall for enthusiasts to practice on. Other facilities include a corkscrew suspended track and courts for basketball, badminton, soccer, and volleyball. In Texas, a vast amount of space has been dedicated to the recreation centers with a total of 500,000 square feet for indoor courts and 40 acres are outdoor fields. There is even an eight-building recreation campus featuring two gymnasiums that students can use for racquetball, handball, archery, dance, basketball, badminton, and more.
At Maine, the school boasts of a full strength training facility, a large 20-person sauna, and a marble-tiled pool. Students can use an ice hockey rink, a basketball court, and a racquetball court. There’s even a nearby forest that can be explored with equipment rental available. Ohio, on the other hand, has an impressive indoor recreational center with an Olympic-sized pool, spa, sauna, and two cages. There’s a squash court, boulder wall, and a gym with 150 cardio machines and over a hundred strength training equipment. Several teams can use it all at the same time.
Changing to Meet Student Needs and Expectations
Several changes are happening on the ground in response to the current expectations of the student body. For instance, fitness facilities are no longer simple oversized gyms. They are now versatile communal health and wellness centers. There are bigger equipment and specialized training zones for different types of workouts. For instance, there are separate areas for aquatics, plyometrics, resistance exercises, winter sports, and so on. Themed group classes are also popular so more are being offered to increase student participation. Some are patterned after well-known books, movies and TV series.
Students are increasingly becoming more conscious of their health and fitness. As such, schools are trying to meet their demands in a way that is suited to the lifestyle. This means providing improved facilities for the most requested sports, an expanded range of classes for both genders, enhanced support for female teams, longer open hours for the gyms, a variety of schedules to choose from, and many more. In North Carolina State University, the demand is so massive that the fitness classes were tripled to accommodate more of the requests.
Real-time tracking is being employed to monitor the usage of on-campus rec centers. The data is then used to determine how to best respond to the demand for programs and facilities. In 2013, it was found that more than 43,500 people visited UCLA’s rec centers including students and employees. On average, 75% of students go to these facilities in school at least once every year. There are mobile apps such as GymFlow developed to check the number of people inside gyms. This helps the students avoid these spaces during their peak times.
Benefits to Students
It has been established that this wellness approach encourages overall student body improvement. Social interaction increases as peers and professors are able to meet outside the classroom. Bonds are strengthened during club sports practice and tournaments. Going to on-campus centers is also a lot more convenient than traveling outside. Students save time as they can drop by before or right after class without missing a beat. They don’t have to pay as student fees cover the upkeep.
Schools should be keen on maintaining and improving their facilities to increase community involvement. Studies found incredible rise in usage after different renovations. In Auburn University, for example, 900 students visited the old center each day. The figure jumped to 3,500 to 5,000 per day after the new site was completed. This encourages a shift in focus to disease prevention rather than illness management. In a Purdue study, students who regularly attended group exercise classes had lower stress levels and higher confidence.
It has also been shown that improved facilities lead to better grades. In Purdue, the 50-year old rec center underwent a $98 million renovation that converted it to a 470,000 square foot facility. More students began to use it upon completion and comparisons found that they got better grades after engaging in this new habit. The GPA average of the students who visited regularly was around 0.2 points higher than those who never did. This correlation may perhaps be attributed to the fitter student’s ability to juggle all the academic loads better than individuals who are not as conscious of their health.
Yet another benefit is greater student retention and academic performance. Michigan State University did a study on this topic. The researchers found out that students with memberships at sports and fitness centers averaged higher grades and longer attendance during their first two years on campus. In particular, those with fitness memberships at university had 13% higher GPA than those who didn’t have any. More of them went on to become sophomores compared to non-gym attendees with the rate difference being 14%. If an institution wants its population to have greater satisfaction and stay, then this is a good way to do it.
The development of recreation centers is not a trivial matter. They require a great deal of resources to build and maintain. Yet everything is worth the effort as the students, faculty, and employees all benefit immensely from these projects. Satisfaction increases, health improves, retention rises, and social interactions get a boost, thanks to these facilities.