Opinion: Vanderbilt needs a 24/7 gym

For the small price of keeping the lights on, students would benefit from the ability to exercise whenever is most convenient to them

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Opinion: Vanderbilt needs a 24/7 gym

Vanderbilt's Alumni Gym

Vanderbilt's Alumni Gym

Vanderbilt's Alumni Gym

Vanderbilt's Alumni Gym

Tim Rice, Author

The importance of regular exercise on overall well-being has been proven in countless studies, and is increasingly being linked to academic performance and mental health, too. From my casual observations of our student body, I’d say Vanderbilt is generally a “fit” school – most students recognize the importance of physical activity and try to incorporate it into their daily routines. This is an excellent mindset that I’m happy most of us share.

Something we also share, though, is a propensity to have an incredibly packed calendar. There are many days in a week where I am busy from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. From speaking with peers, I know that this is not uncommon. This leaves many of us in a difficult situation when we’d like to get some exercise at the end of a long, busy day.

The Commons Center is open 24/7, so why close the gym at 11:30 p.m.?

Say it’s 10 p.m. and you just got out of your last meeting. You don’t have time to get changed and head to the Rec, which closes at 11 p.m. (and emphatically so, as anyone who has been to the rec at closing time can attest to). The only other gyms on campus are the Commons Center (closes at 11:30 p.m., but is quite a ways away from main campus) and Alumni Hall (students lose card access at 11 p.m.*) Thus, your only viable option becomes running around campus – which isn’t always feasible depending on the weather and isn’t always safe to do late at night – or doing some form of “home workout.” Personally, I’ve resorted to running up the stairs in Towers. This should not be an issue at an elite University like Vanderbilt which 1) prides itself on caring for its students’ well-being and 2) recognizes that its students have commitments throughout the day and even into the night. Out of curiosity, I texted two of my friends at different universities, Duke and Harvard, and sure enough I learned that both of those schools have 24/7 facilities. Extrapolating, I would hypothesize that this is the case at many of our peer institutions.

Thankfully, this really is a easy fix. The Commons Center is open 24/7, so why close the gym at 11:30 p.m.? It doesn’t take any more staff to keep it open. Alumni Hall is open to graduate students 24/7, so why close it to undergrad students at 10 p.m.? Additionally, granting us card access doesn’t require any more staffing. I will cede that the Rec center may need to close, as it, unlike the Alumni or Commons gym, requires staff and that much of the staff are students, who shouldn’t shouldn’t be asked to work much later than 11 p.m. However, I believe that even an hour extension (moving closing time to midnight), would have a prominent positive impact on students’ well-being. As a frequenter of the Rec, I know that more students would use the facility from 11 p.m. to midnight than the few students who use it from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. (but to those that do – respect).

I would love to see an unstaffed section of the Rec open 24/7–maybe just a room with cardio machines and some free weights. That said, I’d be satisfied if the Commons gym and Alumni gym were open to students 24/7. Students (like myself) would certainly appreciate it. We’d see gains in well-being, and hey, we might even regain the top spot in the “Happiest Students” ranking.

*A previous version of this article stated that students lose card access to Alumni Gym at 10 p.m. This was incorrect and has been updated to reflect the correct closing time. 

Tim Rice is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. He can be reached at timothy.c.rice@vanderbilt.edu.

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