Minnesota State University officials have hit upon a creative way to get students to exercise: They’ve outfitted the exercise equipment on their Mankato campus with computers and internet access. Now, students can check their eMail, surf the web, watch

TV, or even do their homework while they work out. “It’s easier to work out with something in front of you to keep you entertained,” said Minnesota State freshman Cassie Pap. She credits the new equipment with motivating her to exercise nearly every day instead of just once in a while.

Campus officials, planning a renovation of the recreation building, hit on high technology as a way to get more students to exercise, and brought in the school’s technology staff to help out.

But when they went looking for the equipment–treadmills, bikes, and stairsteppers with computer/TV capabilities–they couldn’t find it.

So Wayne Sharp, director of the university’s Academic Computer Center, and his tech experts set up adjustable stands next to 40 pieces of exercise equipment. Each stand has a computer, keyboard, and mouse; the student who uses it chooses his or her own way to pass the time.

“Exercising can be monotonous and tedious at times,” said Todd Pfingsten, director of campus recreation. “The important thing is that it becomes habitual.”

Pfingsten sees that happening already: Pap and other students fill up the machines almost all day, forcing students to sign up in advance.

Sarah Lerczak, a sophomore, said she’ll probably stick to watching TV, but she likes the eMail option. “If you have to check your eMail, you don’t have to make two stops. You can go right to the gym,” she said. “It’s a big convenience.”