Between TikTok fitness challenges, viral workout routine videos from YouTuber Chloe Ting and countless free exercise apps and courses, the unprecedented health crisis of COVID-19 has inspired people to focus on their personal health and fitness more than ever.
Months spent in quarantine offered many people the free time needed to reflect and be introspective about the importance of health and personal wellbeing. Many students want to take control of their health beyond just wearing their masks.
Freshman economics major Natalie Stembel turned to exercise as a way to stay productive during quarantine. In the early stages of the quarantine after schools transitioned to online instruction, Stembel was “working out constantly, just trying to fill the time.”
When walking through campus, students and locals are often seen jogging and cycling for exercise, catching the bus to the gym, doing yoga on North Campus and even exercising in dorm rooms and apartments.
What can’t be seen as easily is the question in the back of many minds: how can one stay fit and active while also being responsible about social distancing and following guidelines?
When breathing deeply during exercise, you are more likely to inhale any airborne virus particles present in your environment, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Even when properly socially distanced, airflow in indoor environments is also a concern of some. According to a study from Emerging Infectious Diseases, air conditioners and fans are highly effective at spreading COVID-19 throughout a large space.
Despite concerns, along with the return of University of Georgia students to campus came the reopening of the Ramsey Student Center.
In this first semester after reopening following the beginning of the pandemic, the number of patrons entering the facility has been down from recent years, according to Heather Arnold, coordinator for public relations of recreational sports.
In prior semesters, Ramsey saw huge traffic. Between student athletes, faculty and alumni membership holders and motivated university students, hundreds of people came to exercise there every day, Arnold said.
The Ramsey Student Center has implemented a number of new precautions and policies in an effort to promote the health and safety of those who come there to exercise. Some of these guidelines include scheduled cleanings and spread out equipment, Arnold said.
Ramsey also now requires all patrons to wear face masks while in the facility unless they are actively participating in a socially distanced fitness class, on a piece of cardio equipment or swimming, Arnold said.
Stembel, who began her avid exercise habit at home during quarantine, has carried her passion for fitness with her into her first semester. She goes to Ramsey twice a day to fill her free time.
“The pandemic has definitely given me more time to focus on myself, and has let me structure my day around what I really want to do,” Stembel said. “Working out is a great way to do something without being completely surrounded by people.”
Freshman accounting major Anita Kadir is also a familiar face around Ramsey. Kadir exercises in the Ramsey Center four times a week, and mainly exercises in the designated weightlifting rooms.
“I think exercising indoors and outdoors are about the same safety-wise.” Kadir said. “Maybe outdoors will always be a little safer, but with all of the precautions, I feel very safe in Ramsey.”
According to Stembel, Kadir and Arnold the vast majority of patrons at Ramsey are responsible about wearing masks, sanitizing machines and equipment and abiding by all policies.
Other students are finding other methods to sweat out excess energy. Freshman biology and psychology double major Leslie Oroyemi feels safest when exercising in the confines of her dorm room.
“If we weren’t in a pandemic I do think that I would be going to Ramsey,” Oroyemi said. “I know they have certain guidelines in place there, but I’m still very reluctant to go because of COVID.”
Oroyemi has been using the Women Workout at Home Female Fitness app to structure and guide her workouts in the dorm room. Oroyemi especially enjoys this app because of the way users can select a specific part of the body to focus on, as well as an intensity level.
Oroyemi and Stembel both said their friends and peers go on runs around campus as their main form of exercise. Oroyemi also mentioned how many students who are running are wearing masks, even when exercising outdoors.
Individuals have to assess the risks and the benefits of where they choose to exercise in the midst of uncertainty and the seemingly endless list of concerns.
Whether attending fitness classes downtown, running laps around campus or sweating on the arduous trek up the Brumby Hill on Baxter Street, students have to work together in doing the best they can to create an environment for themselves and their peers to remain healthy.