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Campus encourages fitness opportunities during sedentary months

As the holiday season progresses and temperatures drop, students and faculty at Oklahoma Christian University find ways to stay active and maintain their physical health through on-campus fitness opportunities.

According to UPMC Pinnacle, increased food intake and neglected normal exercise routines, which come along with the winter season, can take a toll on individuals both mentally and physically. The types of foods people consume directly link to energy and immune system levels, which can cause negative effects on the body. In order to help alleviate this, the website said it is important to plan workouts ahead of time and consider indoor exercise options.

The American Heart Association said some benefits to exercising during the cold winter months include increased endurance, improved moods, strengthened immune systems and increased alertness.

Concerns about maintaining a healthy lifestyle amplified after the New York Times reported some contestants from NBC’s The Biggest Loser struggled to maintain their new lower weight after completing the show’s fitness program. It said the intense routine created an unrealistic fitness lifestyle expectation post-contestant life.

According to the same article, former contestants have noticed their weight continues to increase despite hours of daily exercise and minimal food intake.

Senior Logan Banister said physical activity has become a normal part of his routine, and is something he enjoys doing. He also said he thinks it is important to incorporate both exercising and healthy eating into his lifestyle.

“The mental aspect of exercising keeps me motivated,” Banister said. “I’m a very routine-oriented person, so my time to work out every morning is something I can look forward to as a personal time to listen to music, clear my head and get ready for my day. I feel like starting my day out with that kind of routine helps me stay focused and have a better day.”

Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Jim Dvorak said although he is not a professional runner or a coach, he chooses to run year-round. He said motivation to exercise in the cold temperatures requires self-determination to to keep going despite the wind.

“I ran in Boston on a morning when it was in the 30s but wind chill made it feel in the 20s,” Dvorak said. “I wore running pants, a couple layers up top, stocking hat and gloves. I was comfortable and had a good run of just shy of five miles.”

Lannea Pemberton, associate director of student success, said she enjoys participating in Oklahoma Christian fitness programs because it is a fun way to get to know co-workers better. She said she was unable to participate in the fitness challenge this semester, because she was on maternity leave when it began. However, she said she plans to get involved again in January.

“My biggest thing right now is I’m trying to lose my pregnancy weight, so it’s like, ‘Okay. I have to set goals,’” Pemberton said. “I set weekly goals instead of just being like, ‘I want to lose this much weight.’”

Pemberton said she relies on accountability partners to help her stick to the goals she sets for herself. She said settling into a routine is a big part of what helps her stay active year-round, but the holidays can make that difficult.

“It is more challenging, because I’m home and there’s a lot of sweet things available and around, so just the availability of junk food over the holidays is hard,” Pemberton said. “When I’m here, I have [exercise] built into my routine, and on break, there’s not really a routine.”

Fitness Center Physical Therapy Employee Carlee Holden said Oklahoma Christian hosts races and indoor fitness classes during the winter months to offer physical activity opportunities year-round. She said most of the participants are students, so the classes are usually only offered while school is in session.

“A lot of people like to kind of get prepared for [the Holiday Hustle], which can definitely help if you’re not used to running,” Holden said. “It can help you stay in shape through the holiday season at least, or the beginning of it.”

Holden said the greatest amount of participation is concentrated at the beginning of the semester when individuals are trying to start the year out the right way. She said involvement usually lessens after a few weeks, but the gym maintains quite a few regular participants.

“In January, it’s going to be a mad-house in the fitness center because everyone sets their New Year’s resolution and all that stuff,” Holden said. “Usually the beginning of the fall is really busy too, because people get back on campus and they’re wanting to get into a good routine.”

According to Holden, there are a lot of good exercise resources online for individuals who do not want to get outside to go to the gym or to a fitness class. She said she likes Fitness Blender, which is a website with workout videos she uses nearly every day.

“Now that I’m a mom of two little babies, I have to do a lot of my workouts at home,” Holden said. “That’s just kind of the way it is because I can’t physically get up to the gym like I used to be able to.”

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