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UNG among fittest colleges in US
Two University of North Georgia students work out in the Recreation Center on the university’s Dahlonega Campus. The university was recently named the 14th fittest in the country by fitness website

The wealth of opportunities to stay fit at the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus has landed the school on a list of fittest colleges in the U.S.

The school was ranked 14th on the list of 50 schools by fitness website, largely thanks to its military science program and yearly fitness challenge.

“It’s kind of hard to not be fit in this area, especially on the Dahlonega campus with all the hiking and camping and kayaking we have up here,” said Sarah Williams, health educator for the Dahlonega campus. “Fitness on campus is really a communitywide effort.”

The campus fitness facilities include a climbing wall, basketball gyms, a fitness center with weight training and cardio equipment, a swimming pool and spaces for group exercise classes. Students can also participate in intramural sports ranging from basketball to water polo.

Three Georgia colleges were included on the list of fittest schools. UNG was the only one in the top 15. The University of Georgia was ranked 18th while Georgia Tech was ranked 33rd.

UNG junior Abby Young said she can see why UNG ranked so high.

“I’m not surprised, just because of how active the student body is outside,” she said. “We have hiking spots  and a lot of outdoor pursuits. We also have the corps of cadets here, and they focus on being physically fit.”

Many of the top 15 schools on the list were military schools or had a military component, but according to the article, that’s just one reason UNG was chosen.

“Of course cadets are required to maintain a certain level of fitness,” the article stated, “but the school scored points because the university is dedicated to creating an atmosphere that makes it easy for the entire campus community to lead healthy lives.”

One part of that atmosphere, it said, is the five-week fitness challenge held for students, faculty and staff every spring.

“What we’re doing with that is really encouraging physical activity and healthy eating,” Williams said. “They compete in teams, and really you’re on teams to encourage each other. ... It’s good to have accountability from your teammates.”

The challenge gives teams three points for every 15 minutes of exercise, up to 45 minutes a day, and additional points for completing challenges and tracking healthy food choices.

Young participated in the challenge last year and said she’s still seeing benefits now.

“I’m an exercise science major, so I already had an exercise regimen, but I’m interested to track the progress that I make and the little challenges that Sarah would give us,” she said. “I have (seen a change since the challenge) especially in my eating habits, just tracking what I eat, keeping a journal of things like how much water I drink.”

Now, Young says she feels healthier overall.

“I feel better just exercising more, benefits like sleeping better at night and having more energy in the day,” she said.

Young participates in Zumba and yoga classes on campus and in intramural flag football, basketball, water polo and soccer. She said she also hikes and spends time walking on campus.

“It’s definitely not all in the gym,” she said. “On the weekends we go hike and stuff like that.”

“I think the community is just very active,” Williams said. “There are always people running around campus, and really just walking the campus is a cardio workout — it’s so hilly.”