Fitness center to offer free membership this semester – The Oswegonian

By Annika Wickham

SUNY Oswego will not be charging students for the use of on-campus fitness centers for the spring 2022 semester, according to a Feb. 7 email from the officer in charge, Dr. Mary C. Toale.

“We are thrilled to announce free student membership access to SUNY Oswego fitness centers for spring 2022 as the first use of HEERF (Higher Education Emergency Relief) mental health and wellness funds. Fund),” the email reads.

SUNY Oswego has two on-campus fitness centers, Cooper and Glimmerglass. Using either facility typically costs $65 per semester or $130 for the academic year. Brian Wallace, director of fitness and recreation at SUNY Oswego, said there’s been talk of ways to make gyms free for students because fees discourage some from going.

“Free access to fitness centers has been discussed because we know exercise has a strong link to positive mental health,” Wallace said. “We always thought there was a problem with membership fees, perhaps limiting access for students.”

The waiver of membership fees “seemed like an easy, easy fruit to grab,” according to Wallace, because there is always an influx of interested students in the spring semester.

“[In the] spring semester, I think a lot more students are interested in fitness,” Wallace said. “There’s New Year’s Eve [resolutions] and everyone kind of has this pattern of “oh, it’s time to recommit to health.”

Wallace is a member of a committee dedicated to deciding how to use the HEERF in the best possible way for students. He said the committee discussed potential concerns about an increase in the number of students using fitness centers, but was not concerned about overcrowding.

“There can be times when we’re at decent capacity,” Wallace said. “But there are just fewer students on campus than five years ago. I think space would be able to handle it, but that’s still an unknown.

Suzanne Brach, a personal trainer, agreed with Wallace that there may be an increase in center usage in the weeks following the announcement, but the numbers won’t stay as high.

“I expect for the first few weeks people will go, just like at the start of every semester the motivation to go to the gym or work out is very high, but as the semester goes advance, it will stabilize,” Brach said.

Wallace said “the entire staff” supported the decision before it was finalized, as they learned it was a possibility in a meeting before classes started, and were “excited” that be implemented.

“I was happy [fitness center memberships] were finally free,” Brach said. “I remember it was a downside to choosing Oswego because a lot of other colleges have their free fitness centers. I had to become a staff member just to get a free gym.

The committee wanted to use HEERF funds in a way that would have “immediate impact” for students, according to Wallace, and discussions about ways to limit or waive membership fees were already underway before the grant money is available.

Funding used to cover fitness center costs is part of the HEERF grant which is specifically for mental health, so students won’t miss out on other COVID-19 related reimbursements instead of free memberships at the fitness center.

“From a mental health perspective, I think a lot of students, from my perspective, use exercise as a way to manage stress, anxiety, and depression,” Wallace said. “It’s a coping mechanism and it’s [a] positive coping mechanism.

This semester is being used as a trial, according to Wallace, to see how many students are taking advantage of the fitness centers and its programs.

“We’re trying to figure out that next step,” Wallace said. “We were already in discussions about rolling this out next semester anyway.”

All students now have access to all aspects of the fitness centers, including group classes and personal training. Wallace said he was interested to see if there was more attendance for group classes as there was more of a “drop-in” option.

Fitness centers are currently hiring group exercise instructors for the 2022-23 academic year, according to Brach, because most staff are graduating this semester. For more information on the post and fitness centers, visit Fitness Centers | Fitness centers (oswego.edu).

Kailee Montross | The Oswegonian

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