Opinion

Gym Rats and Newcomers Must Learn to Coexist

Phil Roeder

In January, gyms seemed filled with disorienting chaos like in Wal-Mart on Black Friday or on the El during a Cubs game, with everyone fighting for his or her rightful spots.

Strength trainers wander through the gym, hopelessly searching for the matches to lone dumbbells, while yogis abandon their zen in a race for the last remaining mat. Regulars get flustered after being displaced from “their” treadmills, which are now occupied by people with fitness-related New Year’s resolutions poking at the machines’ foreign buttons in confusion.

Gym rats congregate in corners of the gym like a true colony, overlooking their newly overcrowded territory as if it has been unjustly invaded by a rebel group led by Instagram fitness models.

Meanwhile, intimidated newcomers to the fitness world quiver with intimidation as a nearby hunk of muscle zealously grunts through a set of sit-ups.

This tension turns a space that is peaceful and sacred into yet another that is segregated and stressful.

Making a resolution to be more physically active is a decision that should be praised and supported, not ridiculed as a temporary, bandwagon decision that hinders the workouts of gym regulars.

The benefits of exercise resemble those of a “miracle cure” or “wonder drug,” according to a 2015 report by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, an institute comprised of 21 medical colleges and faculties in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The report said exercise has a dual functionality, providing prevention and prescription for an infinite assortment of both mental and physical ailments.

For college students, such benefits can be essential to counteracting a deskbound life of studying and the unhealthy behaviors associated with it, including poor eating choices, lethargy, binge drinking, drug use and a lack of sleep.

Because of the drastic impact that exercise can have on wellness, we should view it the same as classes and extracurriculars: something obligatory that is scheduled inflexibly into our week.

Sedentary lifestyle increases all causes of mortality and doubles the risk of developing serious medical conditions, according to the World Health Organization.

Physical activity can reduce these risks and reverse these symptoms, thus why it has been praised as a “wonder drug.”

But taking responsibility of one’s health by engaging in regular exercise does not stop at the individual level.

Preventable, obesity-related illnesses come at an unsettling economic cost to taxpayers and employers.

About 68 percent of adults in the United States are considered to be overweight or obese, according to a report by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This adds to already existing costs that account for 21 percent of annual medical government spending, according to a study published by the Journal of Health Economics.

If more people take responsibility for their health at younger ages, fewer medical claims may be made and the cost of health care could plateau or even decline as fewer individuals lead sedentary lifestyles.

Therefore, an overall increase in activity level would yield a happier, healthier society.

The sight of Halas swarming with new faces shouldn’t be irritating. It should be exciting. It’s a sign that people are taking care of their minds and bodies.

Talking smack about resolution-makers won’t alleviate the issue of limited gym space; it merely threatens to make exercising a negative experience for some people.

So what if a pithy flip of a calendar page inspires people to be more physically active? Motivation can be difficult to come by — it’s even more difficult to maintain — so there should be no shame in jumping on the New Year’s resolution bandwagon. We must use the annual fitness craze as a catalyst for creating and sustaining healthy lifestyles.

Those who already have a regular fitness routine ought to welcome newcomers, abstain from complaining about the great gym migration in January and find energy amid the anarchy.

With acceptance and encouragement, this year’s New Year’s resolution-ers could be next year’s gym rats.

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