October 28, 2015

BARHYDT | Cornell Fitness Centers Should Be Free

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Since last week marked the end of Cornell’s mental health awareness week, I’ve been thinking about an issue that has perplexed me for a long time: Cornell’s fitness centers. It’s widely agreed upon that exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. The Mayo Clinic, for example, says that “The links between anxiety, depression and exercise aren’t entirely clear — but working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of anxiety or depression and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you’re feeling better.” It seems odd to me, then, that despite Cornell’s significant focus on mental health, it still requires its students to pay a semester or yearly fee to use the gym workout facilities. $90 for a semester or $145 for a year might seem like nominal fees, but they’re fees nonetheless, and I can’t imagine that they don’t stop people from going to use the treadmill or lift weights, even if just occasionally. The mere barrier of having to spend money on something like that is at least enough for me to say, forget it.

This is an issue because working out is not only an important part of living a healthy physical lifestyle, but also a mental one. Cornell students already pay an incredibly high tuition, and I believe we deserve to have free access to workout facilities that will help us maintain our physical, and especially mental, health. Now, I can’t say I’ve done very thorough research on Cornell’s financial allocations – maybe it’s just impossible for the administration to find the money to make workout facilities free or maybe it would increase the cost of tuition. But in my mind, finding a way to make full access to fitness centers free of cost should be a priority for Cornell’s administration if it really values its students’ wellbeing.