Be Fit Pitt Workouts Keep Community Healthy

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives. Many of us are working from home, studying from home, communicating with our friends from home … just being home.

Couch-as-office or classroom can be comfortable for a while. But our bodies need to move, for both physical and mental health. Renee J. Rogers, an associate professor in the School of Education’s department of health and human development, knows this. She researches it at the University of Pittsburgh’s Healthy Lifestyle Institute.

Before the pandemic, some of her work could be seen in the basement of the University Club, where her graduate and undergraduate students, as well as staff, led faculty and staff through both group and individual workouts at the club’s fitness center. But when the pandemic shut down the gym, she had to change her methods.

Starting on April 6, Rogers and her team began airing live, interactive exercise classes four times a day during the week

The workouts are posted on the University calendar and promoted through Pittwire Live. All workouts are also archived on the Be Fit Pitt YouTube channel.

Rogers’ students work out live on the stream and pitch in behind the scenes to host, create closed captioning and answer questions in a chat window.

“Getting out of your chair after 10 million Zoom calls in a row is probably really good for more reasons that your heart or your strength or how you look,” Rogers says. “It’s about your mind. It’s about the therapy of moving your body.”

You really do feel so much better mentally and physically when you get up from the computer and move during the day, and these sessions are an easy way to accomplish that.

Thomas Bost, director of grants in the School of Education

One regular participant in the new classes, Carmela Rizzo, an financial assistant at Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center, said she appreciates the work put into the offerings. “They make it so easy. I really appreciate all of the tips and cues they provide so that I can exercise safer and smarter.”

Bost in front of a gray background in a dark shirtThomas Bost, director of grants for the School of Education, agreed. For about a month, he has been participating in about three workouts daily.

“Prior to these workouts being offered I had been running or walking around my neighborhood at night, but that was starting to feel repetitive so I decided to try some of these sessions for variety. It’s really convenient that the exercises are set for you and all you have to do is join and follow along,” he said. “You really do feel so much better mentally and physically when you get up from the computer and move during the day, and these sessions are an easy way to accomplish that.”

Lori Delale-O’Connor, assistant professor of education at the Center for Urban Education, does the workouts with her daughters, Anna, 13, and Alex, 7. Jessica Bachner, who works in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, does them with three of her coworkers.

“Not only have these workouts helped us as a team, they have helped us with our individual fitness goals as well. When working from home, it is easy to not get up as much as a normal workday in the office” she said. “These sessions help keep us motivated and moving through our workday. The workouts give us something to look forward to and to help break up the day and keep us on track during these times.”

Delale-O’Connor loves the sense of connectivity the Be Fit Pitt workouts give her and her daughters.

Scott in a dark shirt“I actually know Dr. Rogers in real life (she’s kind of famous in our house now) and that she gives us shout outs when we are there. She also loves that we can type in the chat. We had been doing yoga and family walks as soon as we started our mandatory time at home and then added the Fit Pitt workouts in May,” she said. “We worked out most days in May, but now are determined to have a streak and do all of the Power-Up Energizer workouts in June because we learned that some other folks did it in May. The workouts give us something fun to look forward to each day.”

One of the reasons kids and anyone of any fitness level can participate is that three versions of a workout are shown and can be seen at the same time. You can start with the mid-intensity version, move up to the high-intensity version if you’re feeling great and capable, or do the in-a-chair version if you’re tired or just starting on the path to fitness.

“A lot of us are sitting more,” Rogers said. “Listen to your body stay active and take care of yourself,” she says.

Rogers plans to continue livestreaming workouts even when the University Club fitness center reopens. Which is good news for Office of Medical Education evaluation coordinator Kathy Scott.

“If the livestreams stop, I would likely have to join a different gym closer to my home,” she said. “I miss the friendship and fun I had working out at the UClub, but these classes have been the best alternative to actually being there.”

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