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Play Emory is new approach to fitness with fun, flexible choices

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Aug. 22, 2013

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Traditional physical education classes are reimagined with Play Emory, a program designed to instill healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Emory Photo/Video.

April Flint wants to put the fun back in fitness.  

As assistant athletics director for recreation and Play Emory, Flint is on a mission to help students discover their passion when it comes to personal fitness.  

And she's encouraging Emory students to get out and play as never before, whether that means a pick-up basketball game, yoga on the Quad, or trying a kick-boxing class for the first time.  

It's all a part of Play Emory, an innovative new campus-wide initiative created through a collaboration between Emory College, Campus Life and Emory's recreation facilities that replaces the current physical education department within Emory College and the "Fitness Emory program" within Athletics and Recreational Services this fall.  

The goal? Teaching and supporting healthy fitness habits that can last a lifetime.  

With both academic and recreational components, the program strives to help students find more flexibility — and fun — in fulfilling required physical education credits, with multiple options for blending fitness and physical activity into busy college schedules.  

Inspired by a similar program at Oxford College, the goal is to reframe fitness classes as flexible, active lifestyle programs, Flint explains: "Our vision is to instill a passion for health and wellness from physical activity from the time [students] step on campus and continue that through their time here."  

That means Emory students seeking physical education credits will now enroll in Play 4 Life courses, says Paula Anderson, Play Emory curriculum coordinator.  

One option within the program is "Play Fusion" classes, which blend instruction and independent physical activity. The first few weeks of class cover orientation and fitness instruction. Throughout the semester, students are tasked completing 30 hours of assorted physical activities, logged through a tracking system.  

Workouts may take place at either the Woodruff PE Center or the Student Activities and Academic Center (SAAC) — students check in via supervisors or smartphones — and can include such activities as running, strength training, swimming, group exercise classes, indoor climbing, or racquet sports. Students can also run or cycle outdoors on their own, documenting their workout with a smartphone app.  

By "finding the joy in play," students also realize benefits that carry into the classroom, including stress relief and other physiological pay-offs, Anderson adds.  

"Studies have linked physical fitness and activity to better grades and less depression," she notes. "So we're trying to help them establish healthy lifestyle habits with benefits that carry beyond the semester."  

But Play Emory isn't just for students, Flint says. "We are refocusing and rebranding recreation on campus and in our community, as well," she says, working with Emory's Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) to promote campus-wide participation in group fitness classes, intramurals and club sports.  

Before Emory students step into a Play 4 Life class, Flint wants them to be aware of the wide array of recreational options on campus. This semester, the first opportunity to do that may be "PlayMania," a fun-filled event for incoming freshmen that will be held Sunday, Aug. 25 from 9 p.m. to midnight at McDonough Field.  

"It's going to be organized chaos, and will offer a taste of everything — club sports, fitness classes, intramurals, healthy foods, and inflatables," Flint says.  

"Basically, we want to teach students to find the joy in play that can help you be successful — we want to give them permission to play."