March 24, 2020

‘Social distancing’ can still mean a mental health and fitness regimen

by Jason Franchuk

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A popular April 25 walk on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus is among several health and wellness awareness initiatives taking on new forms because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SIU is utilizing a variety of ways to provide tips to stay mentally and physically fit during an unprecedented time of social distancing.

With the semester’s remaining classes taking place online, the university’s Wellness and Health Promotion Services office is posting daily tips and resources on various social media platforms. In addition, the department is preparing an online, five-day meditation challenge and moving forward with the April 25 walk by engaging people online.  

“It’s really important to connect to friends, classmates and colleagues, even if you can’t be near each other right now,” said Beth Morrison, assistant director of Student Health Services. “We’re trying to be a part of those connections and to use an online presence to post tips and reminders about self-care.”

Staying fit mentally and physically

During this period of new norms, SIU has a variety of ways for people of all ages to stay grounded through support online.

The SIU Recreation Center is closed, but staff members are using the facility's Facebook page (@SIURecCenter) to post suggestions for daily workouts that can be done even with limited space and equipment. The extremely popular facility has various trainers providing eclectic video clips to stir imaginations and heart rates. Tips and other news, along with an upcoming virtual meditation session, will also be posted on the facility’s Instagram site.

“We are encouraging everyone to get creative and stay active,” fitness coordinator Savanna Ashbaugh said.

Self care — including taking frequent breaks and staying hydrated — becomes critical in times that can seem chaotic and without the routine of a typical day on campus, Ashbaugh added.

The five-day virtual meditation will start April 6 and will soon be posted on the university’s D2L website. For more details, email

‘Out of the Darkness’ walk is April 25

The annual “Out of the Darkness” campus walk is still set for April 25, but there is a twist this year due to the pandemic. The event will be a ‘virtual’ walk, where participation is still open. through a variety of challenges or activities.

Last year’s event raised more than $10,000 for programs that help bring awareness and support for suicide prevention on campus and in the Carbondale community. This year’s goal is $15,000.

“We will continue to raise funds through streaming,” Morrison said. “We’re setting up a virtual experience through video conferencing (Zoom) right now.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15-34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. SIU is participating in the fundraising event for a third straight year.

Students who are feelings stressed concerned and afraid about the coronavirus have several avenues available to them. Information on programs and services available are on the university’s coronavirus website in the “Housing and Student Life” tab.