DERY | Gains, both physical and academic: Cornell should offer credit for regular exercise
My commitment to the on-campus gymnasium has remained more or less the same from semester to semester. With each break, I build a gym routine for the next semester, outfitted with the over a hundred dollar annual membership to the Cornell Fitness Center. In two weeks, I will encourage my friends to join me at Teagle Hall. As I sip my protein shake, I’ll reply “college is temporary, gains in the gym are forever” when they tell me they’re too busy with work. More often than not, these “gym gains” only last for one more week; I hit peak fitness around week three, and it all goes downhill from there. At best, I return to the gym sporadically for the rest of the semester, taking time between preliminary waves. Otherwise, I don’t see the inside of a gymnasium until the next break, when the cycle repeats.
A regular gym routine and a healthy diet for the first three weeks of the semester makes schoolwork much more bearable and keeps stress low. It’s no coincidence that the hardest and most stressful part of the semester comes when the gym has long been removed from my daily life. While building another gymnasium on North Campus is helpful, Cornell leaves its students to their own devices in the fight to buy gym time. The fact that Cornell charges fitness centers indicates that they believe exercise is additional, not necessary, to combat mental health issues and support sustainable lifestyles for students on campus.
Cornell Fitness Center membership fees have long been a monetary barrier preventing students from attending the Cornell gymnasium. As others have said before me, campus gyms should be free for students here on campus, as they are at many other institutions. But I think that’s only part of the solution. Equally important is removing the idea that schoolwork is a reasonable excuse to avoid exercise altogether.
They say if you can’t beat them, join them: So let’s make gym part of school. Or maybe, school in the gymnasium. Cornell should offer academic credit to students who exercise regularly in campus fitness facilities throughout the semester.
A single, single-credit S/U class would suffice – a class that could be dropped at any time. It doesn’t even have to count for academic level. Offering just one academic credit is a tangible reward for gym goers – an extra “gold star” on their transcript. This is far from suggesting that academic credit should become a primary fitness motivator. On the contrary, it is just a small catalyst. It offers students who otherwise don’t exercise due to school a Catch-22: there’s no excuse when working out becomes a version of schoolwork.
This offering of fitness credits should complement, not replace, the current physical education course conditions at Cornell. While a physical education course in weightlifting is still a suitable option for those looking to pay for formal training, this alternative would provide an opportunity to earn credit without having to commit to hours that could come into play. conflict with student schedules.
Formal physical education classes can also be intimidating for new gym goers. Providing room for independent workouts and other ways to meet gym buddies through social media can further ease jitters. Naturally, these reforms would require additional gyms and more student-friendly hours. I shouldn’t have to walk from my room in Collegetown to Morrison Hall in freezing temperatures if I want to train after 7 p.m.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to such a program is the difficulty of determining a student’s performance in the gymnasium as “satisfactory” over the course of a semester. But let’s not get bored with the practicalities of such an endeavor just yet. Solutions are available, ranging from implementing a system where students “scan” the equipment they use, to setting training requirements for students on a case-by-case basis.
In the end, if we worry too much about the possibility of some student buzzing about the facilities or believing that the occasional engineer will bring their problem to the gym, we risk missing the essence of the initiative altogether. As long as we exercise regularly in some form, if only to escape the four walls of our bedrooms, we will already have made progress that is well worth harmless credit.
Roei Dery ’23 (he/him) is a junior at the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] his column, Dery bartakes place every other Monday this semester.