How to maintain an active lifestyle during a summer in Charlottesville, budget edition

Faculty and students talk about the ways they stay healthy and fit while saving money


In Charlottesville, there are no shortage of gyms and facilities that provide space and equipment to help maintain an active lifestyle. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

While some college students associate summer with a more relaxed pace, rising fourth years Annie Sharkey and Summer Allen also see it as an opportunity to stay fit. For these two, who both work eight hours a day in Charlottesville, finding time to exercise is generally as important as being smart about how they spend their money.

Many students, not to mention University faculty and staff, are in a similar situation, with jobs or internships and summer classes that fill their schedules. Others students find themselves in University classes, frequenting the same lecture halls and study spots as during the school year. 

In other words, following guidelines concerning the amount and sorts of physical activity needed for a person to maintain fitness may prove challenging for some. The American Heart Association advocates that adults should participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise each week. 

Mark S. Keeley, a staff physician at the Elson Student Health Center, reiterated these instructions and the value of physical fitness as a component of one’s weekly agenda.

“Making activity a priority is important,” Keeley said. “Usually my suggestion is to work other things around physical activity rather than working it in, because the benefits of it are so great … Being active can help with sleep, anxiety and depression, and help you think better.” 

In Charlottesville, there are no shortage of gyms and facilities that provide space and equipment for meeting these goals. The University alone boasts four gyms. Despite the appeal of these locations for those close to Grounds, there is the matter of cost. Students not enrolled in courses must pay $95 for the summer to access these amenities, a fee some cannot afford due to the financial burden of housing. 

Faculty and staff without regular gym memberships may also look to alternative forms of exercise. Signing up for classes at nearby facilities for everything from CrossFit and high-intensity training facilities to yoga, dance and pilates is usually not an option, as they are often more expensive.

As a result, a percentage of the University population is left to their own devices to discover cost-friendly ways to stay — or become — physically fit over the summer months. Luckily, according to several staff members and students, Charlottesville offers many ways to do so.

“I always walk to work because Charlottesville and U.Va. are so walkable, and I love to hike or do yoga videos in my room, ” rising fourth-year College student Summer Allen said. “Exercise takes so many different forms, and there are so many different ways to do at least something each day.”

Keeley referenced weight lifting, resistance exercises using bands or tubes, tennis and bike riding as several possibilities. He also mentioned running, free dance, yoga, pilates and tai chi videos online in addition to hiking and venturing out on trails in Charlottesville — such as the Rivanna River Trail — as other affordable and equipment-free substitutes.

“These are great activities for getting out and about,” Keeley said. “It does not have to be in any certain segment of time. Any activity throughout the day is fine … any movement and not sitting really.”

However, there is no need to block out large chunks of the day for exercise right away. A commitment to being at least moderately active each day can help develop positive habits.

“If you don’t have much time to work out or don’t feel like it but do just 20 or 25 minutes a day, it’s so good for you,” rising fourth-year Commerce student Annie Sharkey said. “Sometimes, though you have to trick yourself. Maybe you tell yourself you will run one mile and then, once you get into it, you realize it wasn’t so bad and so you run a couple more.”

If choosing to engage in physical activities, Keeley stressed prioritizing hydration and suitable gear to avoid injury and illness, as well as protection from potentially harmful sun exposure and insects. For the hotter months of the year, he advised saving more strenuous outdoor exercise for the cooler hours in the morning and evening. 

In addition, in spite of overarching recommendations, Keeley noted that each person must gauge what works best for their body and schedule with regards to movement duration and type, and those with any outstanding health conditions that may prevent regular exercise should consult their doctor.

A wholesome, well-rounded lifestyle consists of more than lifting weights or running laps, though. Adopting or sustaining balanced eating practices goes hand-in-hand with exercise, especially since adequately and correctly fueling one’s body maximizes performance. Just as suggested levels of exercise varies from person to person, so can the definition of proper nutrition. Keeley said much of caring for oneself physically involves listening to the body’s needs and taking the time to appreciate exercise and food.

“Only eat when hungry and then only eat enough until you are not hungry anymore,” Keeley said. “Mindfulness when eating, being aware of what you’re doing and not being distracted and enjoying your food can be very helpful.”

There are many methods to help maintain a nutritious diet. Taking the time to cook allows for increased control over caloric intake and the makeup of meals, as well as the chance for some creativity, Allen said. An added bonus for both Allen and Sharkey was the ability to save money.

“I cook a lot of my own food,” Allen said. “It’s less expensive than eating out, and I get to be creative with combinations and the composition of the dishes I make.”

With the summer halfway over, time remains to take advantage of the many opportunities Charlottesville has to offer in becoming and staying fit while saving money. As Keeley encouraged, incremental adjustments may be enough to set and keep people on the path to regularly incorporating exercise into their routines.

“Changing your lifestyle is a hard thing to do, but small changes consistently give you the best chance at long-term success,” Keeley said.

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