Routines have been adjusted and readjusted since the pandemic took over in March. One pursuit that has been changing on a regular basis for many, is physical activity.
Many popular workout locations such as parks, gyms and studios have closed their doors in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, leaving many to home workouts. NAU is making the most of such workouts by still offering FIT 100 courses that students can take in the comfort of their dorm rooms or in a class setting while socially distancing.
NAU’s department of health sciences coordinator Kelly Perez said the FIT 100 staff was looking forward to seeing students’ faces again after such a long summer, even if it is through a screen.
Perez said she makes sure each of her students knows one another's names, even in a remote setting. She said it helps build a relationship and a healthy environment for students.
Instructors know the changes that come with going back to school can be challenging, so the program facilitators spent the whole summer changing their format to accommodate student needs during the fall 2020 semester.
FIT program yoga instructor Danya Matulis said in an email interview that the most difficult part of teaching online yoga has been bonding with the students. Matulis said it is a big challenge to learn names and faces while teaching because she has not even met any of them in person.
Perez said that the FIT classes are meant to help students make sure they are still keeping up with their physical activity during the semester as well as learn about their mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, exercise can decrease depression and improve moods.
“A protective factor for suicide prevention and just positive mental health is social connections,” Perez said.
With a good portion of the fall 2020 semester continuing online, the FIT program conducted a survey on July 30 to see if students would be less likely to enroll due to lower class availability and class options. 42% of students who took the survey said that an online FIT 100 class structure would not deter them from enrolling.
The FIT 100 program did see a decrease in class options for the fall semester. In a different survey conducted in the spring, the program asked students what kind of FIT classes they would want. 41% of NAU students asked for FIT classes focused on the mind and body, such as yoga.
Matulis said that FIT 100 classes are centralized around self-care. She explained that students attend FIT 100 classes for more than just exercise.
Along with the surveys conducted by the FIT program, there were anonymous responses left by students on why they would take FIT or why they would not. One student stated that online classes took a large toll on their well-being, which led them to want to take a FIT class in order to take care of their body and mind.
According to the Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut, a moderate to intense exercise routine can boost one’s immune system and help fight off infections like COVID-19. Additionally, exercise can often be seen as a way to improve one’s physical appearance, when in reality exercise can help with more, like mental health, Perez said.
With the ongoing pandemic, school — in general — has become harder to keep up with. According to U.S. News & World Report, 64% of survey respondents expressed concerns about being able to focus and maintain self-discipline while studying remotely.
Meanwhile, 33% of surveyed students at NAU said they wouldn’t take a FIT class if it was offered online. Students responded by saying that they would not have the space at home, nor the equipment or motivation needed in order to succeed in a FIT class.
Matulis said that while it is difficult, she keeps her students motivated by spreading positivity.
“I try to create a very open and safe environment for everyone and always encourage students to take care of their body,” Matulis said. “I think that having this type of comfortable environment and connection really allows for students to enjoy attending class and inspires them to look forward to our classes every week.”
Other surveyed students said that it is instructors like Perez and Matulis that have them wanting to come back to FIT classes even if it is online. Students who took Zoom classes back in the spring said that FIT 100 instructors kept them motivated and accountable by helping them continue to put self-care in their daily routine.
In the end, enrollment was actually not decreased for FIT classes this semester. Perez said that there were numerous waitlists for the self-care related classes.
Perez conducted a quick survey in her own online class as to how many of the students would attend an in-person class, now that classes are no longer completely online. 90% of her survey’s respondents said they would. In order to prepare, the FIT program’s staff has worked all summer to figure out how to work out the technology to ensure remote students still have the access and guidance to a workout, while also protecting themselves.
Perez said the goal is to get students to be active and embrace self-care while being safe. Students who do decide to return to in-person classes will attend their FIT 100 classes outside and follow NAU’s COVID-19Guidelines.