By Jorel Lonesome
The Bronx could be in better shape, and Lehman students know it. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in 2015, nearly 98 percent of Bronx residents had access to exercise---but the borough’s adult obesity rate averages 28 percent, as does physical inactivity. So, what’s causing these unhealthy rates?
Students cite socioeconomic and environmental factors as their biggest impediments to fitness. Several said threats to their physical safety were their prime concern. Lehman sophomore Christina Lopez, 22, said, “Some gym locations in the Bronx are unsafe. The gym will open at 5 or 6 a.m., but that's also the time when criminal activity occurs while everyone is still asleep in their beds.” She also noted that increasing the use of fitness centers would boost the economy, too. “More gyms would bring more businesses relating to health and wellness, which would add more jobs as well.”
A study from citylimits.org confirms this connection between a flagging economy and a lack of gyms. In it, Jarrett Murphy and Katherine Guerrero note that “exercise awareness and participation increases with income, and the Bronx is the city’s poorest borough. Exercise takes time, and Bronxites spend more of their day going to and from work than residents of any other borough: Manhattan residents, on average, have 24 extra minutes each day to hit the gym than people who live in the Bronx.” Their review also pointed out that of eight major gym chains, there were only 23 in the Bronx compared to 71 in Manhattan.
Euriel Murray, a sophomore who plays for the Lehman Lightning baseball team, seconded this. “Better quality gyms aren’t in the Bronx, they’re mostly in the upscale parts of Manhattan. You basically get what you pay for and the equipment is not always the best.”
Lehman biological science professor, Stephen M. Redenti agreed. “I don't think there's enough people attending gyms. There’s not sufficient access to a variety of equipment, especially in less corporate gyms.”
However, Lopez suggested that independent gyms might be better for students because they would be more supportive. “Family oriented gyms like the YMCA, is not only safer, but people begin to know each other over time, to the point they develop a sense of community and friendship.”
Desiree Rosa, 20, a communications major at Lehman, also felt that a strong community would help get her to the gym. With her current work-life pattern, she said, “I get less social bonding. It’s ironic because my major in communications obviously involves interacting with people, but working part time and attending school doesn’t even make me think about going to the gym. Working, then heading to my classes is a workout in itself. I sometimes go for a jog, but not so often.”
One place students can work out close to home is Lehman’s Apex Center, an auxiliary gym. It holds a track, racquetball, basketball and volleyball courts, ballet and aerobic studios, and one of only two 50-meter eight lane swimming pools in greater New York that meet current Olympic swimming and water polo standards. And it is free for students.
“Exercise takes time, and Bronxites spend more of their day going to and from work than residents of any other borough.”
Murray argued that education would also help raise community fitness. “We aren’t properly educated about exercise. We should get educated about calculating our calories, vitamins, minerals and learning different types of diets.”
However, some students blamed their lack of fitness on their drive to further their education. Angel Arroyo, 23, a junior and English major at Lehman, said “It’s the pressure to study hard, reading all given material and do well on these assignments” that keeps her from the gym. “I gained five to ten pounds during my first two years at college,” she recalled. “I was in a new environment, so I wasn’t able to keep up the same exercise level I was used to during high school.” But, she added, she has plans to buy a skateboard. “Maybe that will knock off a few pounds,” she said, “when I start riding in skate parks.”