Group exercise classes are becoming popular at East Tennessee State University.
“We offer over 50 weekly classes that are absolutely free, meaning no additional charge to students, staff and faculty,” said Nani Wilemon, fitness coordinator at ETSU’s Center for Physical Activity.
Students already pay a fee with tuition that supports campus recreation. Included in that fee is access to the CPA and the classes offered there. Wilemon said many schools charge extra for fitness classes at their gyms.
She said the University of Tennessee does not have an additional charge for fitness classes.
“But we are one of the only universities that still do all this stuff at no additional charge to students, staff and faculty,” Wilemon.
Classes encompass a wide range of activities. From belly dancing to ballroom dancing to traditional aerobics to Japanese sword fighting to Zumba, there is likely something for everyone, Wilemon said.
“I try to have a mix of classes for everyone,” Wilemon said.
One way to determine the classes people want is through surveys, which Wilemon does each fall. This past year 500 surveys were returned.
Zumba classes were begun as a result of those surveys. This exercise is a “fusion of Latin and International music and dance themes that create a dynamic, exciting, effective workout,” according to the school’s description.
Classes in Iaido, the contemporary Japanese art of drawing the long sword, helps improve sword techniques, but is also a way to improve mental and physical discipline, according to the school.
Judo, Pilates and cardio classes also are available.
“We do try to mix it up and get some new classes in there,” Wilemon said.
The idea behind the classes is convenience, Wilemon said, therefore, classes are offered throughout the day. But most of the classes take place from 4 p.m. until around 9 or 10 at night.
“We keep it pretty packed,” Wilemon said of the number of people on campus who seek out a group exercise class.
Between 80 and 120 or so people show up for each Zumba class. The space limit for the Zumba room is 120 people, and some eager participants have been turned away due to capacity being met.
“Zumba is definitely the most popular,” Wilemon said. “You don’t have to know how to dance. I think that’s the appeal. It’s just fun.”
The spinning classes are limited in capacity due to the number of stationary bikes available.
“If we had 100 bikes, I’m sure they would all be filled,” Wilemon said.
Wilemon saw a need for group classes while working at the CPA as a graduate assistant about three years ago. She eventually became a full-time employee in charge of group fitness. When she took over the group fitness programs as a graduate assistant there were no weekend classes and about 25 weekly classes.
“We’ve essentially almost doubled the number of classes,” Wilemon said.
Across all the 50 classes or so offered at ETSU, there are about 800 to 1,000 attendees.
Gene Marie Record, a junior at ETSU who also works as a spin instructor at the CPA, said it seems like health and fitness are priorities for many people on campus.
“We’re getting new people all the time,” Record said. “Every week I get one or two people who have never been in my spin class before.”
Record said the group atmosphere in spinning or the other exercise classes helps people actually make time for the gym.
“I think it’s much more motivating to work out with people, because you have someone to hold you accountable coming to the gym,” Record said.
Besides leading a spinning class and getting certified to instruct Zumba, Record also is a nursing student. She said her time can become limited quickly. She imagined many on campus are busy and can become stressed.
“I make it a priority to get to the gym and it makes all the difference in the world,” Record said.
Tiffany Herrick, a graduate student studying school counseling, also works at the CPA. Her favorite class is Zumba.
“It almost feels like you’re not working out,” Herrick said. “Being in a group setting, you have that level of involvement you don’t have if you’re working out by yourself.”