The Missing Element

College students frequently make the mistake of choosing just one or two forms of exercise, but incorporating more can yield stronger physical and mental benefits. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported from a nationwide survey that college students are missing out on physical fitness.

When most women start to exercise, their first choice is usually an aerobic activity such as jogging, rollerblading, riding a stationary bike or using the Stair Master. But aerobic workouts don’t just benefit women. Whether trying to lose weight, enhance health, reduce stress levels or increase the current definition in your body, aerobic exercise could be the key for everyone. Gender making no difference, the CDC survey found “less than four in 10 college students participate in aerobic activities that make them sweat and breathe hard for at least 20 minutes on three or more days each week.”

With school, work and a social life packed into a week in the life of a college student, it is possible to incorporate cardio in a workout.

Students can get exercise by purchasing a Park-n-Ride permit and walking to class. Think of the money it will save.

Instead of catching the shuttle to class, take a quick jog or walk to get the heart pumping early in the day. No matter where you park, try leaving 30 minutes early and use that time for a quick jog before class.

If you’re worried about going to class sweaty, pack some exercise clothes and a pair of running shoes and leave them in a rented gym locker at the Campus Recreation Center. At the end of the day, plan on meeting a friend at the gym for a kickboxing class or some treadmill time. You don’t necessarily need an hour of exercise to burn a lot of calories. A 20-minute jog is a quick and easy way to burn a couple hundred calories and gain cardiovascular benefits.

Typically the free-weight area of the USF Campus Recreation Center is mostly comprised of men. Still, both genders need to be hitting the weight room more often. According to the CDC, nationwide “only 30 percent of college students engage in strengthening exercises on three or more days a week.”

Like aerobic exercise, strength training or resistance training is a major component to physical fitness. Resistance training is the ticket to a higher metabolism, leaner body, stronger bones and better mobility. Do the math and see if resistance training adds up in your college-crazed week; if not, make the addition.

Push-ups, crunches and squats can be a simple way to begin resistance training. Whether in your dorm room, living room or outside, with a few minutes to spare these simple exercises require nothing but your body weight and a little extra space to move. Another option is to invest in a set of dumbbells. You can usually get a pair for less than $15 at Target or Wal-mart. You can do weight training at the end of your workout.

If time becomes an issue, start with just 20 minutes a day. No matter what the excuse, allow just a few minutes at least three times a week and pump some iron — it can simply speed up the time it takes to reach those fitness goals.But your workout is never complete until you stretch out.

The CDC report found that “one in three college students stretch on a regular basis.” Holding a stretch for 15 seconds may not feel like the way to get in shape, but it is definitely a necessary piece to the fitness puzzle. Stretching increases the body’s range of motion, which allows muscles to be worked without the restriction of the opposing muscle group. For example, it is difficult to work back muscles (i.e. latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and trapezius) to their full potential if chest muscles (i.e. pectoralis major and minor and anterior deltoids) aren’t flexible enough to allow back muscles to fully contract; hence why flexibility training can be crucial. Not only can it assist in strengthening the muscles, but it also helps reduce soreness and injuries that may have occurred from or during your previous workout.

Flexibility training, resistance training, or aerobic training … whatever is the missing element in your fitness agenda make the addition and find that those fitness goals are within reach.

Dayna Davidson is the group and fitness supervisor at the Campus Recreation Center and is a senior majoring in wellness and leadership with a minor in professional writing. She can be contacted for questions or comments at