Getting students interested in fitness programs can be difficult. What you need is creative programming that catches the eye of the busy student. “College kids are going 1,000 miles a minute — their attention spans are pretty much nothing, so you have to catch them while they’re in the rec center,” said Bill Campbell, the coordinator of fitness and special programs at Morehead State University.
Both the University of Idaho and Morehead State employ creative programming — with positive results — to attract students to fitness classes.
Peggy Hamlett, the fitness and wellness director at Idaho, was trying to increase participation in the school’s fitness classes and had a revelation: the problem wasn’t a lack of interest from her students. It was a lack of time.
Her solution was a program called Personal Fitness that allowed students to take workout classes at the rec center for class credits. “It’s very self-directed — they have eight weeks to complete a minimum of 18 classes [for the semester],” said Hamlett.
The requirement for students to switch up what classes they attend has helped them discover new preferred workouts. It’s also helped boost overall usage rates for the whole rec center, shared Hamlett.
Competition is a great motivator, and Morehead State has used it well.
“At least once a year, we do a semi-official powerlifting meet where students compete in lifting events: squats, deadlifts and bench presses,” said Campbell. “It automatically draws students from the rec center if they’re working out — we have quite a few students interested in stuff like that.”
According to Campbell, these meets have also captured the attention of students who have never done any powerlifting. “We’re going to run some specialized sessions that will highlight our personal trainers,” said Campbell. “They’ll teach bench pressing, deadlifts and squats to beginner students who can hopefully be more confident and work up to competing.”
At both Idaho and Morehead State, a major equipment trend is the integration of technology.
“The equipment on the main floor has changed dramatically,” said Hamlett. “Everything now has a screen, so it’s easier to watch TV or do a program where you’re watching an instructor teach you. A lot of these self-directed programs have changed retention.”
Plus, incorporated technology helps students be more comfortable with trying new things. “It’s nice that so many new pieces of equipment have very simple-to-follow directions,” said Hamlett. “The advent of having specialized programs on our equipment makes a huge difference.”
It’s also critical to use the attraction of new equipment to your advantage in retention and participation. Consistently updating your equipment can be beneficial. “It’s just like highlighting a program — if you bring in new stuff, people will come just to see it,” said Campbell. “If you can play along with the trends as much as your budget will allow, you can generate some excitement in your students.”