Right before the New Year, Americans nationwide experience holiday remorse, a gut-wrenching guilt response to all the sea-sized helpings of fat-saturated foods. That response then becomes an incentive for those New Year’s resolutioners trying to lose weight and get fit.Impulse bingeing, irregular sleeping and abandoning daily physical activity become the norm toward the end of the year.
However, in the back of everyone’s mind, everything will be okay, because come the New Year, getting in shape is not just an option, but a necessity as motivation skyrockets.
Personal health and fitness regimens are commonly associated with the New Year and New Year’s resolutions. An uptick in Southern Miss community visitation rates to athletic facilities and involvement in athletic programs and organizations reflect this common trend.
Each year New Year’s resolutions are made, 50 percent involve getting fit and staying healthy. In January, group fitness classes are full, and the Payne Center has a spike in facility usage.
The university community is no different than the rest of the nation in regard to falling victim to New Year’s resolutions. Resolution enthusiasts clog the gym as lines to the pizza station in the Fresh Food Company shorten.
By mid-February, those who started the New Year committed to their healthy resolutions are looking in the mirror in disappointment, asking, “Where are the results?”
For people like senior psychology major Alexandria Knight, the new year is an opportunity to establish better habits. She said that she has a new year’s resolution—an unspoken resolution.
“Every year everybody makes the same resolution to get back in the gym, so I said, ‘this year, I’m not going to tell myself I’m going to do it,’” Knight said. “I’ve picked up a few classes at the Payne Center, and I have a class here every day that I have to go to, so I don’t have an excuse for not going.”
In the past, Knight has struggled with attempting to get fit each and every year.
“Last year, with being an RA, it was fine in the beginning, because classes were not busy,” Knight said. “Toward the middle of the semester, classes became more intense (and) my gym time started to diminish. I hope that this semester, I hope I can stick to my goals.”
Knight believes that people’s views when making their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight are altered and misconceived.
“People want to look model thin,” Knight said. “I just want to be healthy, and of course look fit. I don’t want to be model thin, I just want to be fit.”
Knight said that New Year’s resolutions are slowly starting to become more realistic.
“People are realizing they may never get to look like a Victoria’s Secret model,” Knight said.
According to a study by Purdue University, college students who visit their campus gyms are more likely to succeed in the classroom.
“Students who worked out at Purdue’s gym at least once a week were more likely to earn a higher grade point average than students who visited less or not at all,” said Tricia Zelaya, assistant director for student development and assessment at Purdue’s Division of Recreational Sports. “Going to the gym is so much more than going to the gym. Students who are motivated by fitness and wellness tend to have better time management skills.”
Students and faculty returning from a month-long winter break have resolutions to get fit and have rushed to Payne Center for help.
“Participation is traditionally higher January, February and part of March,” said Mark Crager, director of USM Recreational Sports. “It’s a combination of New Year’s resolutions and getting ready for spring break.”
Crager said that the first month of the fall semester is the busiest. After spring break, numbers in the gym trickle down due to students being swamped with midterms and finals.
Recreational Sports partners with other on-campus health initiatives. The department partners with the “Health is Golden” initiative made through the Office of Health Promotion. “No Payne No Gain” is another incentive program designed to motivate people to work out.
In the spring, the Payne Center will implement the Biggest Winner program designed at helping people lose weight. Recreational Sports will also install a sustainable fitness trail next week. The outdoor gym funded through the Health is Golden grant will feature nine different stations like leg and arm presses and a pull up machine.
With all these initiatives, Crager believes the university’s overall level of health is where it should be.
According to the Office of Health Promotion, a total of 54 percent of students at Southern Miss measured at a healthy Body Mass Index in 2013. In the same year, 24.5 percent of students were overweight.
“We are an anomaly in the state,” Crager said. “We are listed as a Fit-Friendly campus through the American Heart Association because we meet their criteria of health. We are designated as a Fit- Friendly campus.”
“The percentage of the student body that participates in intramurals and other fitness activities is comparable to other institutions in the state,” Crager said.
About 70 percent of the student body utilizes the Payne Center, similar to the national average.
“We make more of a conscious effort in the spring, not that we don’t make pushes in the fall, to get people back in the gym after the holidays and get them in the routine,” Crager said. “That’s why they get prizes for working out 10, 20, 30 times.”
“The Office of Health Promotion endorses fitness through activity tables, our wellness ambassadors and other initiatives,” said Health Education Promotion and Wellness Coordinator Jodi Ryder. “I hope to also implement challenges where students and faculty participate in social media challenges.”
The Golden Plate initiative is a collaboration between the Office of Health Promotion and Eagle Dining. The golden plate features a “Health is Golden” sign and a description of the calories of the food.
“When (choosing the golden plate option), you know you are getting a healthy intake below a certain amount of calories,” Ryder said. “We will promote this through social media and tabling. People don’t realize that a reliever of stress is exercise.”