Living a Healthy and Fit Lifestyle

Published April 23, 2013

By Cierra Briana Colón

Katy Kauffman looked straight into the mirror and took a long inhale as she stretched her arms above her head reaching for the sky. Then she slowly exhaled and lowered her hands to the ground, balancing her weight in a downward dog position.

Kauffman, a Towson University junior, is a dance major who incorporates many types of physical activities, such as yoga, into her daily workout routine. Other than dancing at least two hours a day and attending pilates and yoga classes, Kauffman also enjoys running. She’s training for a half marathon in hopes of finishing it in two hours and ten minutes.

Kauffman has always lived a healthy and fit lifestyle. As a dance major, she’s committed more time to health, wellness and fitness. Kauffman said her dance professors condition students during their classes.

“The professors teach us that when we leave college to join dance companies, your body is what people are hiring,” Kauffman said.

Towson University’s dance department motto is “dancing for a lifetime.” Susan Kirchner, a professor and chairperson of Towson’s dance department, said the professors incorporate strength and well-being maintenance in the majority of dance courses offered.

The dance department recently included cardiovascular training as part of class curriculum. Kirchner said professors encourage dance students to cross train and swim, but to do so properly so they don’t damage their joints.

“When dancers join a company and can’t keep their body and instrument healthy then they’re a liability,” Kirchner said.

Professors expect their students to workout and eat healthy in and outside of class. Kauffman tries to run at least two miles at Towson’s Burdick gym every morning. Other students prefer to stay away from the campus gym.


Susan Harnett, a professor in the kinesiology department at Towson University, said Towson students often complain about having to wait up to 45 minutes for a workout machine on campus. Because she has received so many complaints about Towson’s gym, Harnett now requires her students to complete a project in her class in which students write a paper on how to build an at home gym. She said there are many body exercises students can do on their own without having to spend money on equipment.

“When I was younger my family didn’t have the money for weights so I replaced dumbbells with milk jugs and soup cans instead,” Harnett said.

Harnett also wants her students to be aware of the small lifestyle changes they can make such as, taking advantage of numerous steps and hills on campus.

“Students complain about the lack of parking on campus all the time and they’re right,” Harnett said. “Towson is a walking community where all class buildings are close together so there is no need for students to take the shuttle.”

Towson's Burdick Gym

Towson’s Burdick Gym

In addition to walking, there are many other options on campus that students pay for in their activities fee. Marissa Walch, the fitness and wellness coordinator for Towson’s campus recreations center, said their sole purpose is to provide and encourage students to actively participate in their programs, facilities and events.

Campus recreation services offer a variety of physical activities to fit everyone’s exercise preferences such as rock climbing, sport clubs, intramural sports, open recreation basketball courts, open swim and swim lessons. There are also certified personal trainers and group exercise instructors available.

Walch, like many others, hear complaints about the difficulties of staying fit on campus. She said students should ask questions more often on what services are available to them.

Tiger Beat and Baltimore Rampage are two events for students to attend. Tiger Beat is a two hour zumba and hip hop class. Baltimore Rampage is Towson’s annual spring climbing event. It is also the largest intercollegiate climbing competition on the east coast.

Other complaints she gets are students not getting the results they want from exercising. Walch believes that unfortunately students aren’t educated on physical activity and fitness. She said many times people come to the gym and do the same work out every day, but it’s important for people to vary their workouts daily because bodies have muscle memory.

“If you’re doing the same workout every day then you’re going to hit a plateau,” Walch said. “You burn more calories when the body isn’t used to a workout because it has to work harder.”

Walch encourages students to do interval training, which is a combination of cardio, strength training and core exercises. Women tend to stick to cardio because they’re afraid they’ll get huge arms and unfortunately they don’t realize the benefits of strength training, Walch said.

“Strength training surprisingly burns body fat, while cardio only burns calories,” Walch said.

Though Walch said she values the importance of strength training, she is a huge advocate for running outside because it presents students with a challenge of varied terrain settings. Walch said running outside is more applicable to functional training, which are exercise activities performed in daily life. The treadmill can be beneficial only if students change intervals and incline levels periodically through the workout, Walch said.

However, exercising alone won’t keep students healthy and fit. Walch said there have to be healthy nutrition habits in addition to exercising.

“Being healthy is 70 percent of what you take in to your body and only 30 percent of what you work out,” Walch said. “You can’t let your body break a sweat after working out and then replace the sweat that exited your body with a Big Gulp soda from 7/11.”


Towson University's Glen Dining Hall vegan station.

Towson University’s Glen Dining Hall vegan station.

Towson has a decent population of vegetarians and vegans, and many of these students are dance majors. PETA2, the largest youth animal rights group in the world, named Towson University one of the most vegan-friendly colleges. However, there are plenty of healthy foods, vegan and non-vegan, for students to eat on campus.

Jack Osman, a Towson University retired health professor, said the biggest nutrition problem students seem to have is skipping breakfast to get a few minutes of extra sleep. He said students shouldn’t sacrifice breakfast because it’s one of the most important meals of the day.

“By eating breakfast every morning you are breaking a fast because your body hasn’t had food for ten hours or more,” said Osman. “You really need to eat breakfast to jumpstart the system by filling it up with calories and nutrients.”

In addition to breakfast, Osman said students must also at the very minimum eat lunch and dinner as well if not more meals throughout the day. People shouldn’t go without eating for three hours, Osman said. Therefore, he recommends students plan healthy snacks between meals instead of being at the mercy of what’s in stock in the vending machines.

Kerry Ballek, Towson University’s nutritionist and registered dietician, said snacks should be no more than 100 to 200 calories. Ballek recommends students eat Greek yogurt because it’s concentrated and high in protein.

Kauffman said she usually carries yogurt and almonds with her during the day in case she gets hungry in between dancing and training for the upcoming marathon race.

Towson University professor Kathleen Gould of the Health Sciences Department, also believes Greek yogurt is a healthy option for students. However she wants students to be aware of certain yogurt options such as Yoplait’s custard style which has high amounts of added sugars.

Another thing students should be aware of is the new diet trend of replacing meals with shakes. Osman said there are limitations to an all liquid diet.

“You’re not getting the benefit of the enzymes that start the digestive process in the mouth when you’re chewing food,” Osman said.

Gould supports blending fresh fruits, low fat yogurt and skim milk to make a shake as a healthy snack. However, she doesn’t support shakes as meal replacements.

“They don’t have the holding power of a meal,” Gould said. “You’ll get hungry shortly after you drink the shake.”

Ballek said variety is important in trying to develop a healthy diet regimen.

“Students need to eat the rainbow,” Ballek said.

People should eat broccoli, spinach or other foods that are dark green, Gould said. Foods on the dark side of the rainbow are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

All healthy foods of the rainbow are available for students at each of the dining locations on campus. Ballek is available to counsel students and walk them through the dining locations to point out healthy food options.

Staying healthy and fit on campus requires students to make short term goals that are realistic and measurable, Walch said. She doesn’t think its wise for students to want to lose 30 pounds in a semester or want to look like a photoshopped picture of a celebrity.

“Don’t compare yourself to others,” Walch said. “You are made up of your family’s genes so you are going to have their body type and bone structure no matter what.”

Students should also realize they may not be able to run half marathons like Kauffman. However, they do have control over changing their eating habits and exercising.

Walch suggested students study while in a yoga pose or walk a mile to the mall. She just encourages students to stay motivated and keep moving.

“No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybo


One Response to “Living a Healthy and Fit Lifestyle”

  1. jbroadwater Says:

    You’ve got some great healthy tips here.

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