Health and Fitness Column

Health-themed dorms are becoming more popular

By John Taylor | Sep 05, 2013
Photo by: File John Taylor

When an incoming freshman first heads off to college, they have no doubts that they’ll be able to maintain the level of fitness they possessed in high school.
But like many first-year college students, they gain the dreaded freshman 15 after they begin eating on-campus and lack the healthier home-cooked meals they were accustomed to.
Well rest-assured new college students, your dorm may offer options to help you maintain your wellness levels.
A few colleges on the east coast now offer wellness-themed housing options. College administrators at these schools state students who live in these units love the philosophies, and residential living officials believe they help learners avoid obesity.
For example, Frostburg State University in Maryland offers the bWell dorm, where 70 freshmen with an interest in wellness and fitness pursue that lifestyle.

These students attend typical health-oriented programs that most schools offer new students, but they also do P90x and Insanity workouts together, learn how to cook healthful meals, take a substance-free pledge, and encourage one another to avoid fast food restaurants. Dorm leaders also offer non-credit classes in stress mastery, nutrition and fitness.
At Goucher College in Baltimore, health-minded students take residence in the Sondheim dorm. Students living there take yoga classes together, participate in dance lessons, learn how to cook healthful meals and sign a contract that requires them to abstain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Dorm leaders also schedule family-style dinners, and develop a campaign aimed  at creating an environment where there’s no pressure to drink.
Though themed dorms on college campuses have existed for decades, they are usually geared toward Spanish immersion, vegetarian, quiet hours, music and environmental issues. However, with improved health and fitness becoming a national concern in recent years, colleges are devoting more funds and manpower to helping students avoid the pitfalls of obesity.
At the University of Maryland, students can take a course called ‘Fight the 15: Introduction to Fitness and an Active Lifestyle” and receive college credit for it. At American University, the newer dorms have fitness centers on the first floor, which was a “conscious choice the university made when the building was planned,” university spokeswoman Maralee Csellar told “The Washington Post”.
Though there has been no formal, scientific research that shows the programs at any of these schools leads to improved wellness levels, university administrators report that involvement  in campus life activities has increased, and alcohol-related incidents have decreased since these health-focused programs began.
During my freshman year, I was offered to live in an alcohol-free dorm, and I declined because I perceived students living in these residences as geeks who just wanted to study. However, after reading about these health-oriented dorms and the activities they offer, I think I may have changed my tune as a freshman.
If my college had told me I’d have the chance to do whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking, fitness boot camps, and 5K races if I lived in a wellness-themed dorm, I may have signed up.
Like other Western Carolina University alums, I think I’ve realized I feel way better after hiking to the summit of “John’s Rock” in  Pisgah National Forest than dealing with the weekend hangover and wondering where my pants went after a Saturday night booze fest.

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