UM students strive to lead healthier lifestyles

Chloe Riley
The Oxford Eagle

In an attempt to combat the problem of obesity that is plaguing the state, students at the University of Mississippi proactively take steps to lead healthier lifestyles.

Courtney O’Neill, 20, a University of Mississippi hospitality major, has joined many fitness centers around Oxford in order to continue leading a lifestyle centered on her health.

“Growing up in Florida, living an active lifestyle was a given,” O’Neill said. “The weather allowed us to be outside all the time, so activities like yoga and running were common for everyone to take part in.”

Determined not to let the “Freshman 15” happen to her, O’Neill often used the Turner Center on campus for both fitness classes and equipment.

“As a freshman, my choices for exercise were more limited as I didn’t have a car on campus,” O’Neill said. “Besides running outside and going to the Turner Center, I didn’t have the resources to exercise at any of the fitness facilities off campus.”

O'Neill took her first kickboxing class at Oxford Fitness Kickboxing and has been hooked ever since.

O’Neill took her first kickboxing class at Oxford Fitness Kickboxing and has been hooked ever since.

Bringing a car with her when she moved off-campus her sophomore year, O’Neill joined Southern Star Yoga studio and also became an employee at the Oxford YMCA.

Working at the gym, O’Neill says it has kept her motivated to balance her health and schoolwork.

“Being in college, I’ve really had to learn self-discipline and not make excuses for eating unhealthily or skipping a workout,” O’Neill said. “Working at a gym and being surrounded by health and fitness makes it hard to forget to take care of myself.”


UM student Courtney O’Neill stretches before her kickboxing class.

Although O’Neill has memberships to both the YMCA and Southern Star Yoga, she took one kickboxing class at Oxford Fitness Kickboxing and was hooked.

“Health is such a priority for me, and it’s so important to switch up your workouts in order to continue getting stronger,” O’Neill said. “That’s why I’m so willing to pay for these different memberships; you truly can’t put a price on good health.”

Yoga studios, kickboxing classes, and fitness centers aren’t the only regimes popular for UM students.

Allie Ashley, 20, a University of Mississippi Integrated Marketing Communications major, said coaching and playing soccer on almost a daily basis is what helps her lead a healthy lifestyle.

Learning to play at a young age, Ashley’s passion for the sport led her to play in high school and her freshman year of college.

“I learned to play soccer when I was 4,” she said. “It’s always been such a huge part of my life.”

Graduating from the prestigious IMG soccer academy, Ashley made her college decision based on where she could continue to play the sport.

After a successful year at Trevecca University in Nashville, Ashley decided to transfer to the University of Mississippi to be closer to family.

“I absolutely loved playing at the collegiate level, but family took higher priority,” Ashley said. “I knew that just because my career playing on a college team was over, didn’t mean I had to stop playing the sport altogether.”

Continuing her passion, Ashley landed a position at Oxford Soccer Club last year as head coach of the U-12 girls soccer team and keeper trainer for the whole club.

“Even though it’s my job, it never feels like work,” Ashley said. “The girls are so much fun to teach and they’re so eager to learn, which makes it that much more enjoyable.”

Not only does Ashley get to continue her passion, she also said it keeps her motivated to stay in shape.

“Being a soccer coach requires that I’m conditioned well enough to teach the girls on my team the correct technique, and sometimes that even requires me to practice drills with them too,” Ashley said. “Being healthy and in good physical shape not only helps me, but helps the girls I coach too.”

Ashley practices a drill before she teaches it to her team.

Ashley practices a drill before she teaches it to her team.

Finding a way to implement her passion into her daily routine while at college has helped Ashley to lead a healthy lifestyle.

While O’Neill and Ashley have both found ways that help them maintain their physical health, 35.5 percent of adults in Mississippi are obese, according to the State of Obesity, an organization designed to educate and change policies to help fight obesity.

Not only is 35.5 percent of the adult population overweight, Mississippi ranks the third highest state in the country for the number of obese people, according to the State of Obesity.

As more and more cases of obesity-related health issues are diagnosed in the state of Mississippi, Oxford and its residents proactively lead healthy lifestyles to prevent experiencing health-related problems themselves.

“Being a coach not only helps me to live a healthy life, but it also allows me to teach the girls on my team the importance of living one too,” Ashley said.

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