One hour a week to tight buns

Mike Pope

Obesity is replacing tobacco use as the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, but exercising for as little as one hour a week can help students fight the flab.

Troubled by the lifestyle choices facing young Americans, Ellen O’Connor, Life Fitness Center director, said she is especially concerned about the health of college students, who are bombarded with fast food, alcohol and cigarette ads.

Exercising as little as one hour a week can lead to numerous health and body improvements, as well as help avoid obesity, O’Connor said. Exercising as little as three times a week for 20 minutes can add years and quality to your life, she added.

“Obesity is caused by choices in lifestyle and factors of genetics,” O’Connor said. However, exercise alone is not enough.

Students enroll in the Life Fitness Center’s classes to improve their strength, cardiovascular performance and flexibility using state-of-the-art equipment.As director of the Life Fitness Center, O’Connor sees people of all ages and walks of life, with different reasons for being there.

Pedaling hard on an exercise machine, 48-year-old first-semester physical education student Kacey Fitzpatrick said he was exercising to lower his blood pressure.

But health is not the only reason people work out.

“Many of the younger people seem to be more interested in having ‘six-pack abs,’ or ‘buns of steel,’ said O’Connor. “Thus, they engage in different exercises than do their elders.

“We as a capitalistic nation are bombarded with ads and pictures of what we are supposed to look like,” said O’Connor, and while ads often praise the concept of what looks sexy, effects on health are overlooked.

Student Ryan Guerrattaz, 19, was repeating sets of arm curls and said that his goal was “to get ripped.”

“Obesity is caused by choices in lifestyle and factors of genetics,” O’Connor said. However, exercise alone is not enough.

“People think that it’s okay to go eat a fast food cheeseburger or smoke a cigarette after they work out,” she said. “As if one cancels out the other.”

“Exercise,” said O’Connor, “along with a nutrient-rich diet and adequate rest, can do wonders for the body.”

O’Connor’s fascination with movement and activity as a child led her to choose a career in health and fitness. She majored in physical education at UC Berkeley, and then went on to earn a master’s degree at UC Davis before joining the faculty at City College in 1988.

Different people have to motivate themselves differently, said O’Connor, and one obstacle to exercising is lack of interest or motivation.

“What’s important,” she said, “is that you realize you are doing yourself a valuable service that will last for the rest of your life.”