The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff plans to open a fitness center for students and faculty members in response to a lack of space at existing exercise centers on campus.
UAPB Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Elbert Bennett said the new center will better serve students who are not part of intercollegiate athletic teams but who need a venue in which to exercise. He said that some residence halls include a fitness room that features stationary weights, elliptical machines and treadmills. Yet only 40 percent of students live on campus, and the remaining 60 percent of commuter students do not have access to the residence halls.
Additionally, UAPB athletes train in the field house, he said. Other students want to exercise on campus yet there is not enough room currently, he said.
“We were urged to expand because we did not have enough space in the Health Physical Education and Recreation Center room to accommodate our students,” Bennett said. “We needed some other outlet, so this will alleviate the crowding.
“This is something our students need, and today’s generation is concerned about fitness,” Bennett said. “When you look at minority students, 60 percent are overweight or obese. We have an obligation to care for our students and staff.”
He said the new fitness center will open within days in the former recruitment office, which is behind the infirmary. There is no charge to UAPB students who present their UAPB identification card; faculty members will be charged a nominal fee that is yet to be determined.
“I think we will see people living healthier lives,” Bennett said. “The fitness center will address some needs that are impacting our society.”
The fitness center will be open seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Bennett said. Noting UAPB is a Historically Black College and Universities institution, the fitness center is meeting the mission of developing the whole person.
“We find too many African-Americans suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity as a result of poor eating habits,” Bennett said. “These are preventable. We want to help improve quality of life and duration of life.”
The UAPB Student Government Association reviewed exercise equipment and selected stationary bicycles, elliptical machines, treadmills and stationary weights connected to machines. The future plan is to add a wellness center.
Exercise benefits people physically and mentally, Arkansas Department of Health public information officer Kerry Krell said. The physical benefits include lowering one’s risk of developing high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, she said. The mental benefits include increasing one’s mood and relieving stress, she said.
“It is never good to be sedentary,” Krell said. “Exercise is important for people of all ages. It is best developed when you are young. College students are under a lot of stress, so exercise is a key part of being a healthy college student.”