The reason behind Baylor’s lifetime fitness requirement

Baylor's lifetime fitness requirements provide students with the opportunity to learn new skills and stay active. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Mallory Harris | Staff Writer

To produce a well-rounded student, Baylor requires students to take a lifetime fitness class before graduation. The goal of the program is to teach students different ways to maintain their health, both physically and mentally, throughout their life. With a variety of sports, weight control and relaxation, students have the opportunity to learn something new or hone a developed skill.

Program coordinator Dr. Mary Ann Jennings explained they want students to learn new things and to ultimately be able to create their own workouts that are tailored for them.

“The biggest thing is to learn how to program themselves, so that when they get out away from a structured environment, they’ll know how to do their own workout,” Jennings said.

While the pandemic has changed multiple things, the small group of students who just see lifetime fitness as a requirement still remain. Jennings explained that instructors are aware of this and know they must work to win them over and allow them to see how these classes are enjoyable. Especially with the pandemic, the classes held outside hold a bonus social atmosphere for students during stressful times, Jennings explained.

“Right now, the social aspect, a lot of it is being outside and being social and interacting with others helps even though we’re maintaining that social distancing,” Jennings said. “And most of the students are really finding that face-to-face [interaction] refreshing.”

Taking a holistic view in developing students, part-time lecturer Beth Williams explained that for Baylor, they wanted students to be academically, spiritually, physically and emotionally engaged. Mixing both the necessary coursework along with new issues in today’s world, including depression, anxiety and body image, Williams explained how exercise has been a way to connect with oneself. To alleviate students from these issues, graduate student Sarah Ruckman explained how many classes have incorporated fun activities that get students moving.

“I think a lot of students can relate to feeling stressed or feeling down and then going and exercising, and they feel better,” Williams said. “And there are studies that have shown that there’s a distinct correlation between exercise and dealing with stress or dealing with depression. It’s not the sole answer, but it does definitely help.”

As some students have disabilities, the lifetime fitness program has separate courses and programs specifically designed for those who can’t participate in normal physical activities. Jennings explained that students who suffer an injury over break or come into the university with a disability can be placed in LF 1104 for a more structured framework that their doctor can program and lay out which then becomes facilitated by the lifetime fitness team.

However, it’s important to note that these adaptive classes do not replace any rehab a student must endure and vice versa, a student’s rehab cannot count as a lifetime credit, Jennings explained.

“We like to add on to what we do and just facilitate either to help the injury heal or just help you get stronger,” Jennings said.

The lifetime fitness program is designed to provide students with skills and habits of safe exercise practices explained Williams. Seeing students transform and build a community within that class is one of Williams’ favorite part about teaching fitness. Allowing students to learn multiple ways to maintain their health throughout their life is a core value of the lifetime fitness program.

“Honestly, one of my favorite parts is listening to what [students] have learned at the end, like ‘What’s something you’re going to take away from this class and apply to your life.’” Ruckman said. “The goal of our class is to make fitness fun.”