Carnegie Mellon University

The Piper

CMU Community News

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January 31, 2011

Fit Fitness In

University Community Exercises Healthier Choices

By Bruce Gerson

Come healthy, leave healthier.

That’s the slogan for Carnegie Mellon’s fitness program, and by the looks of things, folks are taking it to heart.

More than 400 students, faculty and staff participated in group exercise classes and the Fitness Open House during the first week of classes this semester. Participants at the Open House in the University Center (UC) were able to get advice from fitness staff and personal trainers and try out different activities, such as racquetball, squash, yoga, spinning and stability balls and bands.

Nearly 100 signed up for personal training sessions over the next few weeks, and     many registered to “Fit Fitness In,” this semester’s Fitness Challenge, Jan. 24 – March 1. During that six-week period, individuals commit to working out for at least 20 minutes a day, four days a week. Last semester the challenge drew more than 300 participants.

Director of Fitness and Health Donna Morosky, a 35-year veteran at CMU, and Fitness Operations Manager Pattye Stragar said they’ve seen a drastic increase in awareness and interest in the fitness program.

“We try to do more activities to make people aware of what’s going on,” said Stragar who maintains an email d-list of about 2,000 subscribers to communicate fitness news.

“People love competition so we challenge departments and residence halls to see who can bring the most people to our Fitness Challenge or Walking Wednesdays program. We’re seeing a steady trend upward in participation,” she said.

Stragar also credits the success of the program to President Jared L. Cohon’s commitment to the Healthy Campus Initiative, an effort he launched in 2006.

“The president works out, he’s a big advocate of the program, and it trickles down from there. People are really making time for fitness,” she said.

In an email in early January, Barbara Smith, associate vice president and chief Human Resources Officer, and Anita Barkin, director of University Health Services, encouraged supervisors to support their staff’s involvement in fitness activities.

“While there are times when the needs of the office and the demands of the work situation make staff participation in an event or activity impossible, we would ask that, if and when flexibility is an option, you support a staff member’s interest in participating in a healthy campus activity,” they wrote.

“When individuals engage in a healthier lifestyle the positive impact is realized on both the personal and institutional level. Chronic illness . . . lower employee productivity, increase the number of lost workdays and increase health insurance costs. This is clearly a case where what is good for the employee is also good for the employer,” Smith and Barkin said.

The Walking Wednesday program, in which participants walk for 45 minutes during the noon hour in the UC Gym during inclement weather and on the Gesling Stadium track when the weather’s nice, and the Fitness Challenge are just two components of a mutli-faceted fitness menu offered to the university community by the Department of Athletics and Physical Education. There’s also the Group X-ercise program (see above) and more than 25 physical education classes.

Courses for students range from 
African Caribbean Dance, basketball, body sculpting and karate, to lifeguarding, personal fitness, racquetball and squash, tennis and volleyball.  

Morosky began CMU’s fitness program in the mid-1980s with aerobics classes in the residence halls and in Skibo Gym’s Thistle Hall. She recalls adding step aerobics and body sculpting, and then classes that combined aerobics, step aerobics and body sculpting. Circuit training was added in the ’90s, followed by spinning, “aquacises,” or water aerobics, African Caribbean Dance and yoga. Zumba, a high intensity, Latin-inspired dance exercise, was introduced in 2007.

“We’ve seen an explosion of activity and interest among students, faculty and staff, especially with spinning and yoga,” Morosky said. “I had 74 students on my waiting list for yoga this semester and 34 on the waiting list for spinning.

“We’ve certainly become a much healthier campus,” she said.

For more information on the fitness program, go to or stop by the UC Equipment Desk.  

Group X-ercise Program

The “Group X-ercise” program offers more than 30 classes each week in everything from step aerobics, kickboxing, pilates and spinning, to swimming, West African Dance, yoga and Zumba.  
  • Single class cards are $4 with the exception of yoga, which is $7 per class.
  • Twelve-punch cards are available for $40 (yoga classes require two punches).
  • Cards can be purchased at the UC Equipment Desk across the hall from Wiegand Gym.