Photo courtesy of the author.
What is better than a good work-out at the end of a long day of working or studying? A good work-out with friends while in the running for some cool fitness prizes! The JHSOM Virtual Fitness Challenge, now in its fourth year running, creates exactly such opportunity for Johns Hopkins medical students.
The Virtual Fitness Challenge started in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic when students were isolated and couldn’t access their usual facilities and resources for fitness and wellness. By recording their home workout time and uploading photos to an online platform (the app Strava), students can represent their college in a friendly athletic competition and also enter into raffles for fun prizes such as fitness gears. Medical students Hursuong Vongsachang (Med22) and Erin Wang (Med23) initiated the program with the hope that it helped maintain a sense of community within the medical school while also building a supportive environment for exercising and a culture of fitness.
Since then, the Fitness Challenge has become a yearly tradition that attracts wide participation from the entire student body. As the pandemic’s situation improved and daily life gradually returned to normal, starting in 2022, the program has transitioned to include more in-person group activities such as group runs, bike rides, hikes, rock climbing, yoga and dance classes, and basketball games. In addition to its original aim of promoting camaraderie among Hopkins students, it now also aims to bolster connections between the medical student body and the local community through partnerships with fitness studios and gyms.
This year, the Fitness Challenge recently returned in the month of April with many new fitness activities organized by student groups. Some of these were the Hopkins Dance Collective dance workshop, baseball tournament, morning run/ walk along the harbor, and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine team for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness walk. As a new addition to the program, students also receive free or discounted offers for classes at local fitness studios and gyms including Charm City Run, Solidcore, and Pilates House. Additionally, besides weekly participation prizes (raffle prizes for anyone who logs in at least 60 minutes of workout time), there were also raffle prizes for participants who completed fun weekly challenges, which included “Workout with a friend” and “Wear your college color while working out” among others. Over the 28-day period, 127 students participated in the challenge, logging 69,963 minutes (~1,166 hours) of physical activities on the Strava app. Upon tallying of total numbers of participants and workout minutes, Nathans was awarded with college championship of this year Virtual Fitness Challenge (and eternal glory!).
Amid frequent exams, busy rotations, and multiple research projects, many of us as medical students may struggle to find time and ways to take good care of ourselves, mentally and physically. The Fitness Challenge is so well received since it offers its participants exactly what we need: a motivation to squeeze even just 15 minutes of exercise into our day, a good selection of ways to do so, and while we are at it, some opportunities to connect and reconnect with old and new friends.
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