Fitness challenge gives students more incentives to live healthy lives


Courtney Henson, a participant of the Fall Fitness Challenge, does a workout at the Alumni Gym on Oct. 8, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Anne Bennett | Staff

Anne Bennett

Fall semester brings another annual fitness challenge to UK campus recreation.

Every fall and spring semester, a fitness challenge is announced where participants must complete 40 workouts to be awarded with a free t-shirt. Eligible participants include students, faculty, and all RecWell members recording their workouts in their gym of choice, either the Alumni Gym Fitness Center or the Johnson Student Recreation Center.

The challenge has already begun and lasts until Dec. 14. Students were able to sign up at kiosks at Alumni Gym. At the Johnson Center, those registering found a kiosk near the front desk. In both locations, there are boards with pens nearby to track workout progress. Participants must record workouts in the gym where they signed up.

Challenge participant and physical therapy graduate student Kenneth Lockard said he has participated since he was an undergrad.

“First for a t-shirt, but I really like the fact that they’re advocating for a healthy lifestyle. Sedentary lifestyles lead to most of the problems we see when I’m on my clinicals for physical therapy school,” he said. “Promotion of active lifestyles can be beneficial to their overall well-being and quality of life.”

The fitness challenge began during the early years of the Johnson Center. Either in the fall or spring semester in 2003, the fitness challenge was created by Robert Hayslett, current assistant director of UK Campus Recreation. Promoting health and overall wellness, this challenge engages with students to draw more motivation to living a healthy lifestyle.

Over the years of the fitness challenge, campus recreation has monitored the growth of the program.

“Up to 900 register with an average of 600 participants. Of the participants, about 45 to 65 percent finish,” said Casey Gilvin, UK Fitness Director for campus recreation.

Now with UK’s having two gym facilities, the challenge will be more accessible, hopefully raising the numbers.

It can be difficult to fully monitor everyone’s progress. In the past, campus recreation has tried to implement online systems to record each workout, but found people were not as active this way. Sticking to what works with pen and paper, the displays of participant’s workouts are displayed in each gym location.

“Working out is a stress-reliever and a good way to stay in shape. I would normally workout anyway, but I wanted to keep record of what I’ve been doing outside of ROTC workouts,” said Kurt Sutkamp, a communications major. “A free shirt doesn’t hurt,” he added.

Jen Gribble, a UK nursing major, said health and fitness has always been “a huge part” of her life.

“With the study track I’m on, it’s just becoming more and more interesting to me because I learn more about the benefits. To me, exercising is the most effective way to feel better in any circumstance,” she said. “It helps me calm down when I’m stressed or upset but also helps me feel good about myself. Not only working everyday towards a goal, but actually seeing and feeling results for yourself is just such a good feeling.”

She said joining a fitness challenge is the “perfect extra push” because she gets closer to her goal, with the added benefit of a free t-shirt.

Gilvin said the $5 or $6 cost of making the shirts as minuscule in comparison to the drawn-in motivation that betters the UK community.

“It is something we’re always going to continue to do,” Gilvin said.

Attracting fitness newcomers and veterans, the program is making positive impacts in students’ lives. Working out through the challenge hopefully sets a tone for future healthy decisions.