This is the sound of a student’s regular weekday, tiredly typing away on a computer and sipping from their third cup of coffee. The pandemic has undoubtedly given students an atypical academic experience. Rather than lecture halls, students attend muted Zoom calls and are confined to their room’s workspace. As a result, the only activity students are likely getting is the mental workout of submitting an ELMS assignment minutes before it’s due.
Now that lazily lounging indoors is more socially acceptable and less controversial than going out with a group, the desire to submit to couch-potato tendencies is more tempting than ever. Yet, students at the University of Maryland still find ways to be physically active amid a pandemic, even when the cards are stacked against them.
Freshman microbiology major Xavier Garcia makes use of his easily accessible materials to assist his homemade exercises.
“When I exercise in my dorm I workout with the Home Workout App, which gives me set workout plans for certain body areas,” Garcia said. “In order to do pull ups, I would use a pipe at my house! And to do dips at home, I would use two chairs.”
With likely limited access to a public gym, students’ surroundings are their number one resource for exercise. Doctor of Physical Therapy Marian Ruta of the Potomac Health Group agrees with this sentiment. With her practice based in Rockville, Dr. Ruta often pushes for the creative use of everyday materials among all her patients.
“There are a lot of Youtube videos that you can watch as a guide for your exercises, and there are many other resources. For example, you can improvise and use a half gallon of water or canned goods for weights,” Dr. Ruta said. “And for students in dorms, they can use the walls or mats to help with stretches, yoga, and meditation or relaxation exercises. For strengthening, you can use your own body weight.”
While exercises at home or at the dorms are possible, certain recreational centers are still open to the public for workout sessions as long as a reservation is made. On the UMD campus, the Eppley Recreation Center is popular among students who still want to train with proper equipment. Freshman animal science major Maddie Kupinsky is one of the many who take advantage of this public UMD facility.
“I go to ERC, where I use many of the lower body machines for legs,” Kupinsky said. “I prefer to go to the gym over exercising at my dorm or home, and I try to exercise 2-3 times per week.”
Before this pandemic, different and subtle forms of exercise were common on campus: walking in between classes, joining intramural sports, and even throwing frisbees in front of McKeldin Mall. Now that there are less opportunities for students to get involved and be physically active, it’s up to the student to block out time in their day and commit to an exercise routine.
“Exercise is extremely important for students now that there’s a pandemic. Since many students are sitting for long periods of time, I would recommend they do some posture exercises and back stretches,” Dr. Ruta said. “Every now and then, while sitting in front of the computer, you can elevate both arms, stretch down to your toes, and stretch your sides in order to avoid back pain.”
With the now greater push towards a virtual continuation of academic and social pursuits, it’s easy to get lost in our screens and forget about our physical state. Take a step back from the work and Zoom calls and don’t be afraid to get creative with your exercises at home or in your dorm. Even if your exercise regimen consists of expired half-gallons of milk from your mini fridge as weights or a towel as replacement for a proper floor mat, it’s always the initiative that counts.
“I think with the built-up stress and the constant sitting at home in an online environment, it’s important to get outside and run or workout,” Garcia said. “The most important part in this pandemic is staying mentally and physically healthy.”