It’s time to bring back fitness programs that focus on underrepresented groups

The views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

University of Maryland students are robbed. I don’t mean financially by absurd training costs, textbook prices or excessive housing prices that they don’t even always have air conditioning. In addition to the many widespread problems that this university has failed to address, it also has many smaller, less publicized problems. This university is robbing its female, non-binary, and trans students of their right to comfortable physical activity, which is critical to maintaining both a healthier mentally and physical well-being in the era of isolation after COVID-19.

It’s no secret that co-ed gyms can be male-dominated, with the fitness industry following suit Upper part to below. A BarBend A survey of women in the gym found that 87.2 percent of respondents reported feeling unsafe at the gym, and 75 percent reported being teased or insulted at least once a week at the gym. More than half of respondents have either changed their study schedules or changed what they wear to mitigate potential harassment.

This university must prioritize the health of its students, especially the marginalized, by implementing a consistent and inclusive program to elevate those with traditionally underrepresented identities in the weight room.

Before the pandemic, then-seniors Sarah Kohorst and Rachel Edsall launched a program called “Uplift” on Saturday mornings for women and students of other underrepresented identities to get a chance to lift weights with personal trainers in close proximity.

Yet the year is 2022 and there is no whisper of the promising Uplift program, which has ended as a victim of the pandemic and seniors graduating to the point that the requested page can no longer be found.

Because Uplift worked as a volunteer and reserved the School of Public Health for two-hour windows, a basic lack of structural support from the university is to blame for his disappearance.

This university owes its students – and him overloaded counseling center — the benefits that come with structuring an Uplift-like program for students.

First, a new program like Uplift cannot be volunteer-based like the old one. Instead, Eppley senior management and the kinesiology department should offer an accredited class or scholarship to qualified upper-level students to serve as trainers.

Since the prospective trainers are from the same demographic as the participants, potential gym goers will receive personal training from experienced and approachable trainers. All of these potential student trainers will be trained and supervised by certified trainers, ensuring quality training for attendees.

It’s no secret that this campus is already working with students. From local and community assistants in the halls of residence to teaching assistants who grade your papers in class, this university has a very capable student workforce of around 4300. Clearly, we can continue to expand this workforce and utilize the University’s best resource: its intelligent students. As evidenced by numerous kinesiology courses offered by the University, we clearly produce some of the best minds and bodies in physical education. It would be a waste not to use them and their knowledge to improve both fitness and equity before these students graduate.

Additionally, the structured nature of the potential class would allow it to be offered multiple times per week. Greater flexibility may lead to higher attendance at these renewed Uplift sessions, which may correspond to a larger share of the underrepresented demographic becoming more confident when they go to the dreaded, testosterone-filled gym for weights.

In a school that already has big problems with deletion of sexual abuse by the administration, the Eppley Recreation Center and the Kinesiology Department have the ability to make a lasting difference in the health of their students. A program that gets more women and non-binary people into the weight room could help boost the confidence and fitness of some of the most vulnerable students.

This university needs to permanently revive the Uplift program with a structured student-worker system to fulfill its vision to become “a university that fully embraces diversity, equity and inclusion as morally right and educational, and that centers the well-being of individuals and communities”.

Rohin Mishra is a sophomore majoring in government and economics. He can be reached at [email protected]

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