HealthyU team members
HealthyU team members.

Sept. 20, 2021

HealthyU team creates accessible, cost-friendly workouts catered to students' busy lives

Kinesiology and science students team up to develop fitness plans for their UCalgary peers

What started off as an idea from a third-year honours neuroscience student and a fourth-year kinesiology student has grown into a University of Calgary initiative focused on helping people stay fit.

HealthyU, established in 2020, is run by students who are passionate and knowledgeable about health and fitness. It aims to provide UCalgary students with accessible fitness plans that are catered to their busy schedules and accessible via the club’s website.

“The purpose of this club is for the students to use their knowledge and developing skill sets as kinesiology and science students, to help students to engage in physical activity and ultimately take an active role in their own health with accurate information,” says kinesiology instructor Dr. John Holash, BPE’95, MSc’00, PhD’17, the team’s faculty adviser.

“You can’t always look to other people to give you the opportunity to do something, to be the change that you want to see; sometimes, you have to create that yourselves.” 

Filling a need

Harshil Shah, HealthyU’s founder and vice-president, says many students require personalized, accessible and cost-friendly fitness plans, which not many fitness organizations offer. HealthyU sets a precedent that students themselves can form a community where they can help each other out.

On one hand, Shah saw a gap between students with unique constraints who might not be able to follow traditional fitness plans and kinesiology students who are passionate and knowledgeable about healthy lifestyles, fitness, nutrition and physiology. 

“I saw that gap and I felt like it could be mitigated if you just connect those two groups of people,” says the neuroscience honours student. “The kinesiology students can hone their skills in practising making fitness plans and actually getting that real-life experience, as well as just using their passion to help other students.”  

Shah says he didn’t have the resources or extensive knowledge in kinesiology and fitness to move the club forward on his own. Therefore, he teamed up with some UCalgary kinesiology students and they collaboratively made the idea into a reality.

Advocating for a healthier lifestyle

Jorge Rueda, co-founder and president of the club, is passionate about sharing his knowledge on fitness and healthy lifestyles gained through his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology degree and his personal experience as an avid athlete.

Rueda had the opportunity to volunteer for kinesiology’s Human Performance Lab where he participated in fitness testing and post analysis. He also participated in a couple of studies for an honour’s thesis that involved incremental speed ramp exercises and a study on the effects of contralateral pain in the legs and how it affects force production. This experience further enhanced his familiarity with fitness and physiology.

“I think HealthyU would have the impact of really advocating for a healthier lifestyle (for) all students and not just stopping at aesthetic,” says Rueda, adding it’s about “really going that extra mile and creating a network of reliable information to learn how to work out for people that are not as educated or not as knowledgeable in that respect. So, I think that the biggest impact would be bringing knowledge to students that's reliable, fun and healthy.” 

Fitness planners assist members

Ana Ramirez, a third-year kinesiology major, was the club’s first fitness planner and is now one of three. As a fitness planner, her role is to create exercise and nutrition plans for members.

Ramirez has volunteered with UCalgary Rehabilitation and Fitness as well as Beast-Mode Fitness, an exercise program for teens/young adults with autism. At these fitness programs, she worked one-on-one with participants to guide and assist them with personalized fitness plans created by a trainer. This added to her expertise and further fuelled her passion for health and fitness. Ramirez’s favourite part about the club is sharing her knowledge as a kinesiology student and helping people reach their fitness goals.

The club leaders say HealthyU will have a positive impact on the UCalgary community by bringing forward accurate fitness knowledge that is specifically catered to the busy schedules of university students.

Over time, the club has been refined. In the early stages, each member received a customized fitness plan that targeted their specific goals; however, this added more weight to the team's already heavy schedules. Therefore, the team came to a consensus to create a website where clients could fill out surveys to receive their fitness plans. They also have an Instagram page at @itshealthyu, where they promote their club.

For more information on HealthyU, check out the website.

The Faculty of Kinesiology is ranked the No. 1 sport science school in North America and No. 11 globally according to the ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Sport Science Schools and Departments.