Online gym offers alternatives to busy students


Zoë Chinander-McFaul

Senior Nina Kilgriff wears a Movband fitness tracker. This is one way students enrolled in online gym get credit along with completing daily assignments and work-out logs. “I don’t think the difficulty is high, it’s not hard stuff that you’re doing it’s just the amount of it [that’s] the challenging part,” said senior Ella Johnstad on the course workload. Photo: Zoe Chinander-McFaul

It’s been over a decade since the first online gym class began and now it’s name is echoed around the halls. If you can’t imagine having to change clothes in school, there’s online gym. If you would rather not run laps at the YWCA when you could be making sculptures in ceramics; it’s ok, there’s online gym. But is gym really that easy to get out of?

The course has been around in Minneapolis Public Schools since 2005. Online gym instructor Jim Carr stated in an email that the class first started “…as a way to give IB students an option to fulfill their requirements.” Now many take it as a way to free up their schedule for other classes: “I’m doing engineering and choir full time so I wouldn’t be able to fit [gym] into my schedule,” said junior Cali Juberian-McGuire, who is currently taking online gym.

Not every student is afforded the choice to take gym in real life, and some simply don’t want to. Lots of students take online gym because they can’t fit regular gym in their school day with all of their other required classes: “Students have enrolled for various reasons,” said Carr. “Many of them [have] had difficulty within their schedule.”

Having an option to take the class online is helpful and considered a good resource to many: “I like the idea because then I don’t have to forfeit engineering or choir to take it,” said Juberian-McGuire. “I think it’s a nice resource.”

While taking online gym, you can expect more work than just playing team sports. There are weekly online modules and daily workout logs: “You have to do all these written assignments…or sometimes you have a fake Fitbit…and you have to get a certain amount of steps each day.” said senior Ella Johnstad. “There are also work-out logs you have to fill out.”

Although there are many assignments, you are afforded the opportunity to work ahead if you want. However there are strict deadlines for when the online assignments are due. “Once the time is past, it’s over, you’re screwed if you don’t get [the modules] done.” said Johnstad. “You can’t turn in a late assignment.”

Carr also has restrictions on what qualifies as a work-out. If it’s a chore, like taking your dog out or walking to school, it doesn’t count. “I don’t struggle to work out really, but [Carr] makes requirements for it…you can’t go walking,” said Juberian-McGuire. Furthermore, workouts that are allowed are often hard to do without gym equipment, so students have to find other ways. “I hate running [but] I have to though because I don’t want to pay for a gym membership,” said Juberian-McGuire. “It’s hard for me to fit that into my life.”

The reputation online gym receives is that it’s a hard class, but some say the work itself is easy: “I don’t think the difficulty is high, it’s not hard stuff that you’re doing it’s just the amount of it [that’s] the challenging part,” said Johnstad. “It’s not like you’re doing calculus equations, it’s like ‘Oh my God this [written assignment is] taking three hours to do.’”

However Carr feels students should know what they are signing up for: “Generally speaking, there is a perception that taking any online class will afford the student more free time. If this is the attitude taken, students will quickly learn that the opposite is the norm.”

While learning physical health is viewed as an important life skill some think the execution of gym in high school leaves a lot to be desired: “I think it’s important to be active but I don’t know if gym necessarily teaches that,” said Juberian-McGuire.

 Many students also feel that you should be exempt from gym if you are a varsity athlete and feel it adds more unnecessary work to their day. “Some people have varsity sports that they have to do,” said Johnstad. “I see the argument for gym, for being healthy and getting healthy habits but if you’re a varsity athlete you already have those.” Therefore varsity athletes can take online gym because they can record the hours spent playing their sport on the required workout logs.

However if you aren’t on a varsity team, is online gym a good substitute for a regular gym class? “It definitely is possible to have a good online gym [class], but they just don’t have it set up like that,” said Johnstad. “I spent more time on the computer doing the writing assignments than I ever spent working out.”

Some also feel the class is too easy to skimp on: “I think that a lot of people just make [work-out journals] up, [they’re] not that hard to make up,” said Juberian-McGuire.

Online classes, such as gym and health, are infamous for their reputation to hold students back from graduating. Many have voiced their opinion against those requirements. “To penalize someone for not having [healthy habits], like you can’t walk [at graduation]… it’s not that serious,” said Johnstad. “I think that students should be able to walk regardless [of insufficient gym credits],” said Juberian-McGuire.

While most students feel an insufficient gym credit shouldn’t prohibit someone from graduating, Carr sees it differently: “Falling behind when you have the opportunity to just as easily work ahead can be an issue when graduation rolls around and you’re missing one of your required classes.”

Although online gym has its ups and downs, it allows for students with busy schedules and varsity athletes to get their required gym credits. However it’s a class that requires a lot of extra work. It’s a trade-off that some are willing to make and some aren’t.