If you’re involved in your company’s fitness and wellness programs, you’re probably brainstorming ideas for inserting activity into the daily lives of your team. Well, Alyssa Reyes from the University of British Columbia has cracked the code.
Reyes is the campus Physical Activity Manager and focuses most of her time on increasing student and staff involvement in wellness and exercise.
“It’s not just that research shows physical activity promotes overall wellbeing, there’s also just the piece of being a human,” says Reyes. “I have experienced and seen the benefits of social connections made during group sports and finding your fitness community.”
Reyes has been active for most of her life, as a kid she participated in both soccer and dance. She continued to play sports throughout high school and college in a recreational way.
She believes that universities and colleges are uniquely positioned to encourage healthy activities among staff and students. For many students it’s their first time away from home, in a new environment and they’re constantly building new skills outside of the classroom.
“New students are learning how to build wellbeing routines, which are so tied to academic success,” says Reyes. “We're here at an institution for higher learning, which is great for learning academically, but students are also learning life.”
Reyes’s opinions are backed by research in the US. Michigan State University research links between regular exercise and higher GPAs within college students. Additional research found that students with gym memberships were less likely to drop out of school.
Reyes organizes many different events for students and staff, such as the partnership with ClassPass earlier this year. They promoted ClassPass “corporate” memberships to staff and students at a discounted rate during a month-long activity challenge. They also host smaller events for different student groups, demographics and staff.
According to the New York University physical activity report, Only 45% of adults get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more days per week, and adolescents are similarly inactive, while only 40 to 45 percent of college students engage in fitness activities more than three days per week. And most physical activity routines are established during college years. In the US, 81 to 85 percent of adults continue the same physical activity patterns that they establish during their senior year of college.
Reyes’s goal is to encourage physical activity no matter what, whether it’s through a sponsored event or just through habit changes. She suggests that staff and students participate in “activity snacks” throughout the day, i.e. fitting in more movement into their daily routines. For example, during the interview Reyes was taking a walk through the neighborhood while she joined us via the phone. This was an opportunity for her to get her work done, while adding in extra movement.
“I think it's a really important piece for universities to invest in (wellness and activity) because we're teaching students that are in really critical time in their lives how to promote their wellbeing on top of academic success,” says Reyes. “Again, the research shows that higher wellbeing, more physical activity typically ties into higher cognitive function, memory retention, learning and an overall academic success. So it's like how can we try those things together? And both kind of goals support each other, so for me it feels like an easy connection.”