Incoming freshmen may end their first year with a new group of friends, some credit hours, a regular study spot or possibly the dreaded “freshman 15.”
Weight gain can negatively impact student health. Y Be Fit Co-director James Fowler said excess poundage can do anything from breed self-consciousness to increase the risk of serious illness.
“Excess body fat puts you at risk for things like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and just about any horrible chronic disease that you can think of,” Fowler said.
Despite the gravity of these effects, many students don’t know how to begin making realistic, sustainable changes. Some may use baseline measurements like weight or body mass index, but football team athletic trainer Brett Mortensen said generic numbers and statistics can only take people so far.
“You can look at numbers against similarly aged people and it’s a piece of the puzzle, but it’s certainly not the whole puzzle,” Mortensen said.
According to Mortensen, the first step for someone creating a suitable fitness plan is to decide their end goal, taking into account the level of work they want to put in and what’s feasible for their body type.
“A lot of people would like to look like some of the athletes, but none of us want to work out eight hours a day,” Mortensen said. “There are very few people who look like that naturally. We tend to look at ourselves and judge our own weaknesses against everybody else’s strengths.”
The majority of people lead much more sedentary lives, according to Fowler, and the key is taking stock of one’s own health and making goals for improvement. Some may opt for lofty goals like losing 20 pounds, but Fowler said even a little physical improvement can improve overall health.
BYU offers several physical measurement tests to help students and faculty jump-start their road to better health.
Y Be Fit, found in the Richards Building, provides inexpensive opportunities to get a blood lipid profile, nutritional analysis, blood glucose test, and a treadmill and strength test.
Y Be Fit also offers the Bod Pod for an accurate reading of body composition. The Bod Pod uses air displacement technology to calculate the percentage of fat versus non-fat weight. This can provide students with a more complete picture of their physical makeup and a measurable starting point for health programs.
Y Be Fit also employs students in exercise science and other health majors as health coaches who give one-on-one trainings to students over the course of 16 weeks to help them set and reach personal health goals.
Fowler said most people use the program to help with weight loss, but also to improve cholesterol, hypertension, food planning, tracking calories or any other physical goal.
The first meeting is what Trent Sever, another co-director of Y Be Fit, deemed a “no pressure appointment.” Clients meet with a potential coach to discuss what the program will look like, possible health goals and what clients can expect from their coach. At the end of the appointment, the student can opt out or pay $70 for the 16-week course.
In the next meeting, clients receive a starting point by testing their body composition and fitness levels. In the remaining visits, coaches and clients review the results, customize goals, work toward those goals and complete a final evaluation, according to Sever.
Sever said one of the main benefits of participating in the 16-week program is accurate, personalized information the coaches provide. He said the coaches help clients “sort through a lot of health-related articles and noise that may not be a good source.”
Sever and Fowler emphasized the benefits of being accountable to someone. Sever added many people have difficulty changing bad habits they’ve nursed for years.
“They may have tried before, and that really takes a toll on someone’s self-confidence,” Sever said. “So having someone there who can keep you accountable and encourage you by using motivational interviewing techniques can be really beneficial.”
BYU also promotes physical wellness through extracurricular fitness classes in the Richards Building. Students have access to 15 fitness classes a week for 15 weeks for $15. Some of the weekly classes include barre, Zumba, yoga and cycling.
The student activities department offers for-credit classes in over two dozen sports like bowling, scuba diving, badminton, swimming and soccer. Most sports have separate sections for beginning and intermediate participants.
BYU student Lyndsay Rich took three semesters of spin and weight lifting before deciding to add yoga into the mix. Rich said the basic techniques she has learned have given her the confidence to try yoga in other settings.
“Now I feel like I can go to a different yoga class because I know how to do a lot of the poses,” Rich said. “Even if the flow is different, I’ll know how to position myself so that I feel like I’m doing it right.”
This newfound appreciation for yoga prompted Rich to attend yoga club — one of the many student sports clubs on campus.
BYU students have access to the pool, weight room, fitness center, track and tennis courts when teams aren’t practicing or competing.
Fowler said one of the most important elements of fitness is monitoring change, regardless of one’s health goals. He likened not tracking fitness to never monitoring class grades and assuming everything is fine.
“That’s probably what we do with food,” Fowler said. “(We say,) ‘It’s fine, I’m probably about the same weight.’ And then your pants are tight, and then you’re sweating when you’re walking up the stairs.”
Mortensen suggested making a physical log as a way to track subtle changes over time. He said most people don’t get overweight or too skinny in a day or two, but over months and years.
“I think if people are just conscientious and keeping track of things, subtle changes made and maintained through life (are) a much better way than drastic, big huge dieting programs,” Mortensen said.
BYU’s spectrum of resources encourage students to consider healthful changes, no matter where they start out.
According to Fowler, health ultimately comes down to a lifestyle of sustainable healthfulness. He said one of the best indicators of progress is when Y Be Fit clients shift from a benchmark goal, like losing a certain amount of weight, to behavioral goals they can maintain throughout life.