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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Group Fit classes experience drop in attendance

Group+Fit+classes+offered+through+Rec+Services+experienced+an+almost+70+percent+drop+in+expected+attendance+this+semester.
Photo by Shirley Liu for The Lafayette
Group Fit classes offered through Rec Services experienced an almost 70 percent drop in expected attendance this semester.

Recreation Services has been offering Group Fit classes since the mid-90s and expanded its offerings in the spring of 2000 when the new recreation center opened. While classes have been canceled in the past, this semester saw a significant drop in attendance, with almost 70 percent of classes falling below Rec Services’ attendance standards.

Associate Director of Recreation Services Karen Howell explained that Rec Services’ standard practice is to drop a Group Fit class that falls below 35% capacity for three weeks in a row. This equates to about three or fewer participants, which for many classes is too few to keep both participants and instructors engaged.

“This semester more than 66% of our classes have fallen below our threshold,” Howell wrote in an email. “In the fall of 2019, prior to COVID, only 37% of our classes were dropped due to not meeting the threshold.  This was a typical number for prior semesters as well.”

According to Howell, Rec Services offers about 10 to 15 classes per week each semester. These classes range from Zumba, barbell-type classes, yoga, spinning and other special format classes such as barre, HIIT and kickboxing. Howell explained that the class offerings are determined by the availability of instructors in the area and the formats they are certified to teach.

Students who are current seniors also saw the drop in attendance align with the onset of COVID-19. Senior Layla Ennis explained that during her freshman year, prior to the pandemic, students would have to log on to sign up for a class within two hours of registration opening to avoid getting stuck on the waitlist.

“Now I can log on an hour before class and still get a spot,” Ennis wrote in an email. “Overall, I have noticed that classes have been less full. Sometimes only three or four participants attend. This has led to some classes being canceled for the remainder of the semester due to low attendance, such as Sunday afternoon yoga.”

The Rec Center worked to provide opportunities for students to work out even during the pandemic, using an outside service to offer reduced-capacity classes with instructors joining virtually.

“While this was an option during COVID, the feedback was that students wanted to return to in-person classes with live instructors,” Howell wrote. “When running both types within the same semester, the attendance for the virtual classes dropped off.”

Howell said that more advertising could improve attendance as she believes students may be under the impression that classes are still virtual.

Group Fit instructors are paid as part-time employees of the college. Howell explained that all instructors, if ready to teach, do get paid even if no one shows up for the class that day. However, when a class is canceled due to low registration or lack of attendance, instructors do not get paid. Howell said that this is a typical practice in the industry.

Offering Group Fit classes is not unique to Lafayette, as the majority of colleges and universities that have recreation facilities offer some type of Group Fit program for their students. However, at most colleges and universities, students pay a fee for participation in the group fitness program.

Howell wrote that the program supports the department’s mission to “provide exercise-centered experiences … that foster physical, social, and emotional wellness within a safe environment.”

“The mental health benefits can include the feeling of being part of a group, which in turn can increase motivation. The classes provide an opportunity to meet new people and increase the sense of belonging,” Howell wrote. “Many Group Fit classes can be good for those new to exercise by helping them to learn proper form, and by registering in advance, this can hold [students] accountable to exercise for that day.”

Sophomore Emma Sylvester said that the Group Fit classes provide a convenient way for her to stay active while navigating a busy schedule.

“Personally, having a dedicated time to work out each week has made it really easy for me to incorporate more exercise into my routine,” she wrote in an email. “The group setting has also helped me stay motivated and has encouraged me to challenge myself, which I find to be more difficult to achieve on the individual level.”

“Also, it is often the same people who attend every week so I feel Group Fit builds a better sense of community than just a normal workout,” Ennis added. “Group Fit is a less intimidating way for people to get introduced to the gym … If you attend often, the instructors will get to know you and are open to advising on specific questions such as weight selection or exercise modifications.”

According to Howell, Rec Services has been soliciting data from students for over 10 years. 

“Students that participate on a regular basis in Group Fit Classes overwhelmingly report an interest in staying healthy and fit and plan to continue this type of activity when they leave Lafayette,” she wrote. “Students also report that as a result of their participation, the following health-related areas were increased or improved: feeling of well-being, physical strength, energy level, managing stress and self-confidence.”

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About the Contributors
Caroline McParland, Sports Editor
Shirley Liu, Managing Editor
Shirley Liu manages, edits, and manages edits.

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