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Feature Story

May 2016


Surgeon General Visits Gregory Gym in Austin

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By David Mumpower

The title of Surgeon General of the United States includes a significant number of official responsibilities. Current office-holder Vivek Murthy understands that one of the most important is physical fitness. The 19th Surgeon General's passion for such quality of life is well-established. He founded Doctors for America, a healthcare reform movement with 15,000 members. One of his stated goals is to empower people to live better by learning about physical fitness at a young age.

What's the best way to indoctrinate the youth of today into becoming the healthy adults of tomorrow? The answer is to teach them at the college level. These early days of adulthood are the formative period of a person's life. For the first time, students choose how to spend their days rather than being told how to structure their days. Murthy recognizes that encouraging college students to spend more time performing any sort of exercise is a huge step toward training them to live healthier.

During a recent visit to the University of Texas at Austin, the 19th Surgeon General took a step back in time when he toured Gregory Gymnasium Aquatic Complex, one of the oldest swimming institutions of any major college. Founded in 1930, Gregory Gym isn't some relic from before World War II, though. In 2005, the university renovated the entire aquatic center, modernizing it into one of the finest on-campus facilities in the country.

In enhancing timeless buildings by adding state-of-the-art functionality, the collegiate administrators at Texas can draw from their voluminous history. Next year, they'll celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first onsite fitness facility. The wisdom they've gained over the years has sustained their popularity—about 90 percent of their students use the fitness facilities during the calendar year.

For all its 21st century improvements, Gregory Gym is only one of four robust facilities on the main University of Texas campus. Gage Paine, the vice president for Student Affairs, explained how their storied history and forward- thinking organizational activities sustain interest. She points out an astounding statistic: Almost 90 percent of Texas students participated in some on-campus recreational activity from 2014 to 2015. They relish timeless classics such as club sports, swimming and intramural competitions.

Paine added that a crucial aspect of collegiate recreational management is appealing to a new generation of students. In order to appeal to diehard workout warriors, the University of Texas added functionality such as rock climbing. It supports a speech Murthy gave during his visit. He noted that "Health has a branding problem." He maintains that the key to sustained student interest in exercise comes down to paying attention to what's popular and what's fun.

During his trip, the Surgeon General was thrilled to discover that an entirely different sport is all the rage with millennials on campus. The Longhorns are the reigning national champions in Quidditch, which simply proves that any activity is meritorious if its ultimate goal is to train collegians to embrace a healthier lifestyle.


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