Weight-lifting equipment
Weight-lifting equipment at a gym. Photo via Pixabay

Have you heard of the “freshman 15?” One quarter of students gain weight during their freshman year of college. That number increases to 70% of students by the sophomore year of college. 

College students should have free access to gyms to fight obesity before it becomes to difficult to change habits. Free access can improve self-esteem and mental health. We need our college students to be healthy and reduce any barriers getting in the way of their education.  

A study done in the United Kingdom by Rabiee, Robbins and Khan in 2015 explored the effectiveness of a pilot scheme that gave people free access to a gym and over 200 participated. The study found 44% of participants lost weight, while 21 people reported fewer visits to a general practitioner, and 95 people reported gaining muscle mass. 

Studies show that exercising plays a significant role in preventing obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If more people exercise, obesity and the diseases it causes will decrease. Free gyms for college students can help by reducing the number of hospital visits and encouraging students to live a healthier lifestyle.  

In the Rabiee, Robbins and Khan study, participants said that having free gym access  increased their motivation to work out. Many reported that the key benefit of free gyms was reduced stress and increased overall mental well-being.

Exercise combats depression as participants indicated that once they began to exercise, they used less medication for depression because they felt better about themselves. They also found that regular exercise improved their mood, self-esteem and confidence. So free gym access for college students would benefit their mental health. 

Free gyms help with social isolation because going to the gym opens the door to creating a community where people bond and create friendships. Students may feel alone during college and having a place to work out and make friendships can improve their mental health.  

Free gyms will reduce financial burdens and barriers to working out. There would not be enrollment, monthly and annual fees to stress over. Participants in the UK study reported that free access to gyms helped relieve the pressure of choosing between paying for gym or buying groceries.  

In my own experience, paying between $25 and $40 a month plus the extra fees took a toll on  my finances. College can get expensive as tuition, books, commuting, and food add up. Removing the gym bill would be a significant financial benefit.

When people think of free, they think the quality of the service will be horrible. Most online  comments, like those found in Reddit, argue that free gyms will lead to overcrowding. There’s no evidence of this, but a pilot program of free gym for college students would help answer this question and others.

The freshman 15 can be prevented, and we can have healthy college students who will perform better in college to the benefit our society. We must advocate for programs and health grants to be provided so college students can have free access to gyms. 

David Magallanes is a senior at California State University San Marcos.