UCLA’s Overcrowded Gyms Pose Problem for Students

By Aidan Rubel

LOS ANGELES — Anyone who’s been to either of UCLA’s gyms can tell you how overburdened their facilities are, with weight racks completely empty, and lines for the squat racks and bench press being almost assured.


Sure, you can go to the gym late into the night—say, 11 p.m.—and avoid having to do laps around the gym to find any open machine, but that’s not always feasible for students who want to sleep at a reasonable time. This poses the question: Why are UCLA’s gyms so overcrowded?


2017 research states that 20% of college students perform regular moderate physical activity and 38% perform regular vigorous physical activity. Therefore, a working estimate is that a little over half of UCLA’s students regularly attend the gym; 18,629 students, based on UCLA’s undergraduate enrollment


However, BFit is the only on-campus gym that is restricted to UCLA’s undergraduate students. The John Wooden Center, the only other on-campus gym, is also open to faculty, staff, retirees, alumni, and community members. Altogether, 20,000 people regularly attend UCLA’s two gyms. Considering an average gym has only 1500 members, let alone regular attendants, these numbers are unreasonable.


UCLA’s gyms have almost ten times as many regular members as the average U.S. gym, which poses a huge problem for UCLA’s students and administration. 


Crowded gyms—like any other crowded place—serve as a petri dish for Covid-19 (and any other illness) to spread. With UCLA’s attempts to curb COVID-19 spread, the overcrowding problem at its gyms should concern them. The threats posed by possible exposure to Covid-19 at UCLA’s gyms are enough to discourage students from going to the gym altogether. 


“Even though UCLA lifted most of the COVID restrictions, [going to the gym] is still a big concern for me,” says Jean Tan, a second-year Math and Applied Sciences major at UCLA. 


“Considering how packed the gym is all the time, and the fact that no one really wears a mask, going to the gym feels quite risky and, not to mention, inconvenient. Over the summer, I went to the gym almost every day because it really helps with my mental and physical health. But recently, the crowding has really discouraged me from going more often. I only go two to three times a week now.”


Tan does a good job of summarizing the experiences of many UCLA students. Without reliable access to exercise equipment and an enjoyable gym experience, UCLA students are left without a necessary outlet to relieve their stress and anxiety. 


It’s important to understand that mental health is one of the main motivations for many to go to the gym, for good reason; exercise has long been shown to be beneficial for mental health, specifically in decreasing anxiety and depression. Studies show that about half of college students struggle with depression, which is especially troubling considering the prominence of suicidal thoughts on college campuses


Any changes, no matter how minuscule, that can be made to decrease the prevalence of these thoughts among college students should be welcomed with open arms, but how could UCLA go about making these changes?


One obvious possibility would be the construction of a new gym altogether. This is unlikely, though, and, even if this wish were to be granted, it would take a very long time to complete—most likely, once many current students have already graduated.


One idea is the implementation of mini-workout stations throughout the Hill—UCLA’s on-campus dorm community. These mini-workout stations could consist of a few benches, squat racks, mats, and an assortment of free weights, and would ideally be located in as many of the residence halls’ common areas as possible. For example, UCLA could convert some of the residence halls’ first-floor common lounges for this purpose.


One benefit of this solution is that it would be cost-effective and quick to implement—in comparison to building a gym, at least—which would make it very attractive to the UCLA administration compared to other options. 


Let’s say that eight of these gyms are set up across the Hill; if just ten people were to use each of these eight gyms at a time, there would be a load of 80 people taken off of the other on-campus gyms. This would be enough to make a huge difference in how crowded the gyms are; lines may even disappear.


It’s impossible to say how much of an impact these changes could make, but any change made by UCLA’s administration for the betterment of its students’ physical and mental health would be a step in the right direction.

About The Author

Aidan is part of UCLA's class of 2025, majoring in Public Affairs with a minor in Professional Writing. He works as an Editor for the Peoples' Vanguard of Los Angeles and in his free time he enjoys cooking, reading, and going to the gym.

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