Students get creative to stay physically active at University of Iowa

Because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, most university students are feeling shut indoors and with no way to stay active. The University of Iowa Recreational Center has also moved to online sign-ups only to encourage social distancing.


Matthew Hsieh

The sign in front of the University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Monday Sept. 14, 2020. Students and the University of Iowa have had to adapt routines and procedures during the COVID-19 Pandemic to ensure student safety while maintaining fitness levels.

Caitlin Crome, News Reporter

With most University of Iowa classes online during the fall semester, students have had to get more creative in order to exercise, replacing the daily walk to class.

Not leaving the UI residence halls for a few days at a time is the new normal for many students. UI freshman Lily Hintz said she has felt the struggles of staying indoors all day.

“I feel like I get super tired throughout the day,” she said. “It is exhausting having to look at a webcam constantly. It is really weird, and I feel like I have not been in touch with nature or explored the campus as much as I would like to because all of my classes are online.”

Hintz said she heard about Zumba and other fitness classes offered by the UI Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, but in her free time, she chooses to walk around campus and visit other people.

Hintz has not visited  the recreation center yet. She said she is also concerned about the strict reservation policies but agrees that the university did the right thing.

According to a survey from Statista, around 27 percent of respondents said they have been exercising less than normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 53 percent said they had exercised the same amount as usual.

To promote social distancing, UI students who are interested in coming to the UI Campus Recreation and Wellness Center must reserve a time slot online to come in. The center’s staff announces over the intercom that those who were in a certain time slot that has ended should exit the facility.

“You must wear a mask at all times inside of our facilities,” Associate Director of Fitness and Wellness Patricia Kutcher said. “All locations, including the Field House, have been marked for social distancing.”

Related: UI Recreation Services provides group fitness from a distance

UI freshman Abbie Davitt said she has tried to spend time outside, but that it’s dependent on the weather.

“Especially when it is raining, it’s tough,” she said. “The days run together, time runs together, and it just feels like you are not doing much and there is not much to do.”

Davitt said she tries to go to the UI Campus Recreation and Wellness Center most days. There is a park that she and her friends found that they go to to walk around, as well, she said.

One thing she was looking forward to to help stay active during the school year was involvement in student organizations and club activities, but now that they are online due to UI COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, it has been hard for her to figure out plans for herself.

Although it was stressful for Davitt at first having reservations for the UI Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, she said she also agrees that they have done the right thing.

“I think they are doing the best they can and it is a little inconvenient,” she said, “…but overall it has been fine.”

Kutcher said another thing the recreational facilities are offering is at-home resources such as online pre-recorded classes and live Zoom classes.

“We have an at-home fitness bar with [instructors], we have gentle yoga, HIIT classes for beginners, kettlebell workouts,” said Kutcher. “There are a lot of classes and workouts that our members can get through our at home resources, and it is a great opportunity to get to meet our instructors.”

Even with COVID-19 discouraging some students from entering campus facilities, Kutcher said she has noticed an even greater student participation than she has seen in the past.

Kutcher said UI Recreational Services is offering a program called the Fit-to-Go program. It is a private class that can be in-person as well as virtual that does cost money, she said, and is a way for student groups to be able to hire a private instructor for any type of class.

“We hope to be starting in the near future outdoor fitness classes at Hubbard Park,” she said. “We are trying to give all of our members different avenues to come and workout and continue to be a part of their community.”