Temple group fitness classes help students with stress

Participation in the university’s group fitness program has increased by 20 percent in the last two years.

Students work out in a group cycling class at the IBC Student Recreation Center on March 18. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Julie Kim has always tried to stay active, but didn’t like that she felt like she was being judged when wandering the gym alone. When she found out about the free group fitness classes at Temple, she was all in. 

Kim, a freshman communication studies major, started attending various classes from morning Cycling sessions to evening Full Body Toning workouts.

Campus Recreation offers more than 20 recreational group fitness classes through Campus Recreation. The American College of Sports Medicine, a sports medicine and exercise science organization, ranked group training as the second-highest worldwide fitness trend for 2019 in its annual survey. 

John Doman, the director of Campus Recreation, said the group fitness program’s popularity among students and more weekly sessions increased participation by 20 percent in the last two years. 

The group fitness classes are hosted in the IBC Student Recreation Center. After discovering the classes, several students said they noticed improvements in their mental and physical health.

Alyssa Rife, a sophomore psychology major, started taking yoga classes at the IBC this semester. The classes help her mental and physical health, she said.

“It definitely relieves stress and gives me an hour of time where I can get rid of that stress and relax and focus on myself,” Rife said.

For Kyra Heyl, a freshman public health major, the judgment-free environment in group cycling classes and the instructor’s encouragement eased her nerves during the first class. 

“There was no pressure or anything, like you were able to cycle at your own comfort basically,” said Heyl, who attends the weekly Tuesday night class. “But you can also allow yourself to push yourself more if you really want to.”

Katie Weaver, a junior political science and global studies major, is one of the cycling instructors at the IBC. As the class follows her workout, she advises participants to be careful not to overexert themselves, she said.

“Don’t push yourself to follow my lead if it’s going to hurt you or if you’re going to be too tired because that’s not even the point of the class,” she said.

The IBC will undergo a $202,000 renovation this summer. It will open in Fall 2019 with additional cardio equipment and an appearance that closer resembles the Student Training and Recreation Complex at 15th Street and Montgomery Avenue.

Mervin Lumba, a junior exercise and sport science major, agreed that personal safety is the main priority, he said. Lumba, who has taught yoga at the IBC for three years, first demonstrates a pose in class before helping participants.

More group fitness instructors are coaching their participants instead of just expecting the class to follow along, according to the American Council on Exercise, an exercise professional and health coach certification nonprofit. 

The coaching in group classes may encourage exercising students to keep going when they feel like giving up. Group classes can also provide a sense of accountability, and participants can learn how to correct their form while having fun with other people, Sue Parke, a group exercise instructor, wrote for the online fitness community Active.com.

“I try to give feedback to students if I see something potentially problematic,” Lumba said. “It is very important that students feel good within a posture, so I encourage my attendees to listen to the feedback that their body is giving back to them while they are moving.”

Both instructors and participants notice the personal gains from group fitness classes.

“There’s a lot of things you could be doing with your time,” Weaver said. “The fact that you’re coming to work out, more specifically among others in that setting, that just shows that you want to make that commitment to yourself.”

Kim sometimes finds that in a group fitness setting, her mindset shifts away from fears that she’s being watched or critiqued.

“When I’m in that setting with everybody, I like how everyone’s doing the same thing,” Kim added. “Everyone’s focused on their own thing, so I never feel like I’m being judged.”

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