Adjusting to college is not easy, and from personal experience, exercise tends to take a backseat to the many other obligations of college life. After two and a half years-- and various attempts at a regular exercise schedule-- I have narrowed down what works for me on a budget and spoke to other students who have found their own approaches to staying active.
Going to school in Wisconsin makes outdoor exercise a little more difficult, but is typically the most budget-friendly option. While living in the dorms freshman year, I took advantage of the free gym on campus-- just a short walk from the dorms, this option was accessible year round, regardless of the weather. In hindsight, however, I did not use the on-campus facilities enough my freshman year, so I would highly encourage students living on campus to take full advantage.
With the winter dissuading me from making the trek, the university gym became less accessible once I moved off campus. Instead, I signed up for an off-campus gym. Hillel at UW-Madison offers inexpensive gym memberships and was just a few blocks down the street from my house. Although more costly than the free, school-provided facilities, the walk was far-less grueling in the winter-- so I opted to spend a little extra sophomore year.
Junior year, I finally moved into my own apartment at the Hub Madison (a national corporation of collegiate apartments). This building had a great gym just one floor up from my apartment, so getting there could not have been easier. With this amenity being a part of my rent, I was extra-motivated to make use of it.
While these are the various ways I have stayed active in college, I know that not all universities offer the same facilities for free, nor do all apartment buildings include such amenities. To get a better idea of how other college students stay active, I asked peers at various universities what their preferred approach to fitness is at school.
For the most part, my UW peers choose to splurge on workout classes. Although this was the priciest option, most of these students mentioned that they chose to prioritize exercise over other splurges-- such as eating out, clothes or other non-essential purchases. A lot of others stuck to their school’s gyms if they were free. However, those who went to school in warmer places said they preferred to make use of the outdoors to stay active!
While exercise is an easy activity to put on the back burner, it is a great way to destress and is essential for remaining both physically and mentally healthy in college, whether this is a short walk outside or a full workout class.
As I work on budgeting, I have realized that a huge part of budgeting is creating priorities. Exercise is important for self-care, so there is nothing wrong with choosing to spend a little extra on the workout classes you enjoy or a gym membership! Just remember to weigh your priorities and decide where you want to spend your money.
Sophia Westover is a senior at University of Wisconsin - Madison. She is currently working on BA in Journalism with an emphasis on Strategic Communication and a minor in Gender and Women's Studies.