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Science Proves Fitness Protects Against COVID, But My School Makes It Impossible To Work Out 


Few have experienced the COVID-19 Draconian lockdowns worse than college students. Piling on top of tyrannical federal, state, and local mandates, campus rules and regulations have not only been excessive and foolish, but destructive.

Scientific data proves that being fit and healthy is essential to combating COVID-19. We also know that individuals with lifestyle-related comorbidities, such as obesity and type two diabetes, are far more likely to be hospitalized or die from the Wuhan virus. Over the last pandemic-ridden year, 42 percent of U.S. adults reported gaining an average of 29 pounds, and 10 percent said they gained more than 50 pounds.

Yet universities like Princeton, Columbia, Harvard, the University of Chicago, and many others are actively discouraging students from being healthy by making working out as difficult as possible. Students who attend New York University and the University of California at Los Angeles can’t even go to the gym because they have been completely shut down.

Universities are forcing students to wear masks at all times, including in outdoor and indoor athletic facilities, even when they are performing strenuous physical activity, like sprints.

While masking-up in gyms, even during high-intensity exercise, is now advised by the Center of Disease Control (CDC), research suggests these guidelines are not supported by science. This wouldn’t be the first time the CDC has gotten things wrong. Studies have shown wearing a mask impairs people’s ability to work out at full capacity and elevates people’s heart rates, increasing “the physiological burden of the body.”

The World Health Organization’s “Mythbusters” page reads, “FACT: People should NOT wear masks while exercising,” adding that masks can “reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.” The WHO also says that when sweat saturates people’s masks it “promotes the growth of microorganisms.”

At many universities, students can’t work out at the gym without scheduling an appointment. With limited capacity rules, workout times are very short and fill up fast, requiring students to sign up many days in advance.

Worse, students are only permitted to work out for a maximum of 50 minutes (no long breaks between sets, people!). At schools like U-Chicago, where I am a junior, students can’t attend more than one reservation in a day, even if they go to different parts of the gym, like cardio and then the weight room.

For busy students, many of whom also work in addition to their classes, it is difficult to plan a workout that far in advance. Yet when Princeton University students miss three scheduled workout sessions, they are suspended from using the gym. Mind you, these are facilities that students and their families are paying exorbitant fees for.

Like many other schools, UChicago has closed down its outdoor facilities. This week, I thought I would run sprints at the outdoor track. The entire track was completely empty until I noticed a university employee enter from outside the gated stadium. The individual informed me the track was only open to university athletes due to COVID-19.

This is ludicrous when one considers my other options. I can run on the sidewalk, where I will undoubtedly run near pedestrians, or I can run inside on the treadmill, where I will also encounter people. The empty track is clearly the most COVID-protected, yet the university bars students from using it even when it’s empty.

If another runner had tried to join me on the track, I would not have cared. I am not afraid of coming into contact with other human beings — especially not outside. I am 21 years old, and therefore genuinely more likely to die from the seasonal flu and pneumonia than from COVID-19. The university’s rules are unreasonable, unscientific, and unhealthy. Everyone knows being fit and working out is also good for one’s physical and mental health, especially during a pandemic lockdown.

Of course, none of the absurd university rules are about science; they are about control. Yet students are tolerating oppressive rules and disturbing violations of civil liberties in the name of “health.”

Most college students still suffer in inferior remote learning. Some schools aren’t allowing students to have dorm room guests. Others have installed security cameras in the hallways aimed at residents’ doors, in order to mandate compliance. When students miss required COVID tests, places like the University of Wisconsin at Madison deploy escalating consequences ranging from being unable to go to class or access transcripts, to even suspension.

Across the country, colleges have implemented Soviet-style “snitch lists,” where students can anonymously turn in classmates for having a small gathering or not wearing a mask properly. Those who are snitched on have had their class registration put on hold, been kicked out of university housing, and suspended.

The COVID standard set on college campuses is alarming. Instead of giving young adults the freedom to start thinking freely and make their own life choices, universities force students to tolerate totalitarianism.

The very least school administrators and COVID advisors can do is “follow the science,” and stop discouraging students from trying to live healthy lifestyles. Open up the indoor and outdoor gym facilities, stop making it so hard to work out by forcing students to sign up days in advance to use the gym, and stop limiting the time we can spend working out.

Finally, stop forcing students, nearly all of whom have virtually no chance of dying of COVID, to wear masks during high-intensity workouts. It is harmful and contrary to the “science” these university bureaucrats have all committed to follow.

This story was originally published in the Chicago Thinker.