The average American college student spends as many as 16 hours a day indoors. A lot of this time indoors is inevitable. Classes, labs and other college activities take place inside, but too much time spent away from the outdoors can negatively affect college students.
Kenneth Wright, the director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado, Boulder, studies the effects of spending too little time outdoors. His research suggests electric lighting and an absence of natural light can affect sleep patterns and throw off internal rhythms, which in turn can negatively impact your mood and overall health. For college students, this is detrimental.
Moreover, many college students have reported feeling isolated, even on large campuses with a large student population. They crave opportunities to meet other students with similar interests, and they want exciting things to do outside of the classroom. Creating fun, social outdoor fitness experiences for students can improve emotional and physical health and contribute to the overall quality of life.
One popular trend among campus recreation centers is challenge courses. Similar to the obstacle courses found in competitive races like Warrior Dash or on television shows like American Ninja Warrior, these courses promote friendly competition, encourage social interaction among various peer groups and offer physical activity for students of all fitness levels. They can be set up on a temporary basis for special events or installed as permanent amenities for your students.
Some colleges and universities build their own courses out of lumber or other materials, modeling them after obstacles they see at race events or on television. Others have professional installers from fitness or playground companies design and build a permanent course as part of the recreation complex. The latter are typically more durable, covered by a warranty and much more serviceable. Many schools use their challenge course as part of a wellness program for students and faculty, and some colleges make the course part of their athletic teams’ conditioning and training regimen.
Additionally, an outdoor obstacle course on your college campus offers real and lasting benefits for your students and faculty, such as:
- Increased serotonin levels from exposure to fresh air — serotonin regulates sleep cycles and improves mood.
- Reduced tension, lower blood pressure and less anxiety thanks to exposure to natural sunlight.
- Positive thoughts and improved overall mental health from exercising outdoors and interacting with friends.
By accepting the challenge to create an obstacle course on your campus, you can offer a diverse fitness space to a broad audience of students and faculty, maximize the effectiveness of your campus recreation efforts and provide a unique amenity that sets you apart from other institutions.