UCF was recently ranked as one of the nation’s 26 healthiest colleges.
The school was lauded for its extensive athletic, recreational and nutritional options, according to an annual ranking by lifestyle website Greatist.com. Schools are nominated through social media, and those nominees are ranked based on data taken from Trojan’s Sexual Health Report Card, The Princeton Review and the American College of Health Association’s Health Campus Partners. The rankings are presented in geographic order, but not order of importance.
“UCF has just about every single fitness facility you can imagine, plus an outdoor adventure center, a challenge course complete with not one, but two zip lines, and a rec area at Lake Claire with beach volleyball,” according to Greatist.com. “And UCF won’t just serve you healthy meals; it’ll make nutritious eating a lifelong habit with cooking demonstrations, free appointments with registered dietitians, and classes like healthy meals on a budget.”
Most of those services fall under the Recreation and Wellness Center, an organization dedicated to serving student health needs. The RWC, which students elected to build and fund through student fees, operates out of a 150,000-square-foot facility on the south side of campus. In addition to a full-scale gymnasium, the RWC offers a variety of courts for sports such as basketball, racquetball, volleyball and tennis, a full-size outdoor lap pool, an indoor track, a climbing wall and a challenge course, which features rope obstacles and zip lines.
“We want to be able to capture every University of Central Florida student,” said Shane Land, an assistant director at the center. “Our student population is so diverse, and we want to make sure we have offerings for everyone.”
The staff of the RWC focuses on inclusivity, Land said, and they do their best to ensure that every student is given the opportunity to pursue a healthy lifestyle, whether that’s through one of the school’s 63 intramural sports events and 43 club sports, or its extensive athletic facilities.
Last year, the intramural sports program welcomed 11,000 student participants, with total participation numbers exceeding 20,000. Land said the draw of sports for many students was about more than just exercise — it was about making friends.
Beyond sports and fitness, students are also able to receive cooking classes and dietary counseling courtesy of Wellness & Health Promotion Services. WHPS works to “promote healthy lifestyle habits,” through workshops on topics such as nutrition, stress management, sexual health and alcohol and drug use.
Their nutrition efforts involve cooking demonstrations and healthy-eating classes, as well as counseling with the WHPS’ registered dietitian or certified nutrition specialist.
Stephanie Spies, assistant director of WHPS, said the cooking classes were started to show students that healthy eating doesn’t have to be extensively prohibitive or difficult.
“We know that our students are eating zero to one servings of fruit or vegetable each day, when the daily recommended value is five or more servings,” Spies said. “What we learned is that students either didn’t know how to prepare their fruits and vegetables or they don’t like the taste. Through the cooking classes and cooking demos, we’re teaching students that vegetables can be healthy and delicious.”
This year, WHPS is seeking to expand its cooking demonstrations with a pop-out kitchen, a food-truck-type vehicle that will allow them to bring a kitchen wherever they go.
Students seeking a more in-depth examination of their eating habits can schedule a free appointment with WHPS’ registered dietitian, Andres Ayesta-Herrera, who designs an eating plan that can help them meet their lifestyle goals.
In the end, all these services all have the same goals: Helping students live happier, healthier and better lives.
“It’s all about wanting to live a healthier lifestyle,” said Mari Milekovic, a marketing coordinator for WHPS. “Students can want a lot of things — some students want to eat healthier, some people want to work out more effectively — and we want to be able to help all of them.”