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Students are more likely to stick with an activity that they think is fun. Fun is the first step in motivating students to exercise. To increase motivation on center, there are three other steps:
  1. Create a supportive environment. Help students support each other in their goals. Offer encouragement and stay positive.
  2. Students need choices and the ability to make their own decisions. There need to be enough activities available that students can find something they enjoy. You can help students discover activities that they might enjoy, but avoid forcing them into an activity that you would like them to do.​
  3. Set them up to feel confident. Help students start off slow with an activity that is easy to master. Tell them only what they have done right. Discuss their accomplishments. Stay away from threats, deadlines, and imposed goals. Help students feel good about their body.

Sports (soccer, volleyball, softball, basketball, running club, jogging club, walking club, etc.)

  • Team sports. Organize soccer, volleyball or basketball and complete against other Job Corps centers or nearby schools or allow students to complete against staff.
  • Running clubs. Organize cross country clubs or running teams for students who want to start running. Train for a charity race or community event.
  • Walking club. Provide pedometers (which are very affordable) so that students can monitor their progress in miles or steps done.

Dance (hip hop dance, Greek organization stepping, Latin dance, belly dancing, urban dance, aerobics class, step class, dance competitions)

  • Take it easy and let students do the work. Start by asking them what they want.
  • Help students design a "So You Think You Can Dance" class. Students can create and practice their routines and then perform in front of a panel of student judges. Encourage veteran student dancers to become instructors or choreographers for these classes. Recruit students to buddy up with students who they can mentor in dance. Enlist in some instructional dance tapes so students can learn dances that are unfamiliar to them.
  • One fun way of using aerobics and music is to have a group of students practice to reproduce a popular dance video of their choice, such as Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video. Students can perform this at a center event. This may attract more students to join and become an official center dance troupe.
  • Aerobics and step classes are also fun as long as the class is safe and the instructor is fun and plays music that the students will enjoy. Also, step class with traditional step equipment requires a step that can be purchased from a sports or exercise equipment shop, but also would require a volunteer or paid instructor to teach the students how to safely and creatively use the equipment for a good workout. It is recommended that group exercise instructors hold a certification. There are several nationally-recognized certifications for group exercise instructors. To find an instructor certified by the American Council on Exercise visit their website at The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also provide fitness certifications.
  • Encourage a staff member who might have been part of Greek organization stepping in college to share the tradition. If no one on staff is interested, see if a local university Greek organization would be willing to participate.
  • Check out local resources. Bring in a Latin dance, hip hop, or belly dance instructor to help students try out some moves.

Mind/Body or Stress Reduction Activities

  • Bring a yoga or Pilates instructor to center a couple of times a month as a special class.
  • Buy a few yoga DVDs and set up a time for students to use the DVDs.
  • Teach a stretching class.
  • Take 10 minutes with a group of students, turn out the lights and practice deep breathing and relaxation.
  • Explore visualization, progressive relaxation, T'ai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation, and other forms of stress reduction.

Gym Workout (Elliptical machine, treadmill, Stationary bike, row machine, weight machines)

  • Have music or a TV available to help students pass the time.
  • Encourage students to have a buddy to talk to while using the gym equipment.
  • Develop a peer mentoring program in which experienced exercisers assist novices.

Interactive Gaming [Wii Sports™ or Wii Fit™ games, video dance games like Dance, Dance Revolution (DDR)™]

  • The purchase of a system can be used as an incentive for winning a fitness or exercise challenge or for a dormatory that has the most students who consistently exercise over the course of six months.
Note: These game systems do not accommodate a large amount of students to play at once; usually one to four students may be able to play at a time. They require a television with a large screen and the video gaming system with accessories. It is important that students understand the importance of taking care of these systems as they are expensive and may be costly to replace. If several TV and gaming systems can be purchased or one for each dorm for the common room, it would definitely benefit the students who use it.

According to a study from the American Council on Exercise, Wii Sports™ burns more calories than Wii Fit™. Of the Wii Fit™ games, Free Run and Island Run burn the most calories (3.1-7.7 calories per minute and 2.7-9.3 calories per minute). All Wii™ activities burn fewer calories than doing the real thing (e.g., running, step aerobics). DDR burns more calories than the Wii™. In difficult mode, a young person will burn about 9.4 calories per minute.

Student Input

It is important to obtain student input for recreation activities. At least every six months, try to get an idea of what students want out of recreation. You can design your own method or use the student program evaluation form.

Anders, M. (2007). Human joysticks. ACE Fitness Matters. Retrieved online December 29, 2009 from

Carroll, A., Porcari, J., Foster, C., Anders, M. (2009). Wii Fit or just a wee bit? ACE FitnessMatters. Retrieved online December 29, 2009 from

Ryan, R.M., Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist. 55(1), 68-78.

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