The Face of Mitchell

By Eric Buehler and Oliver Gladfelter

Mitchell is a building of many connotations. To the student athlete, it’s as essential as A-quad. To the power lifter, it’s their place of daily worship. Then there’s the standard student, just trying to fit a quick workout into their busy schedule. And of course, for many students, it’s that big building where D-Day happens. Here at 127 we are interested in the ‘when’ and ‘who’ of Mitchell: when does the building get its most visitors? And who’s most likely to visit in the first place?

In a previous post, we used a data set capturing a week of swipe transactions on Denison’s campus in April 2017 to look at the migration patterns between freshmen and senior dorms. Now, we’re using these same swipe data to look at when Mitchell gets its most foot traffic. Our findings may reveal the best time to visit the gym if you’re looking to avoid the rush which can make it impossible to get a damn treadmill.

Figure 1 – Total Swipes into Mitchell over a Week

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Evidently, students start off the week optimistic and ready to make some gains, yet this wears off by the end of the week. As the week progresses, average daily swipes into Mitchell drop from over 1,000 to nearly 500 – a massive drop. This is somewhat expected; people lose motivation throughout the week, the end of the week is when exams are usually held and papers are due, and perhaps Mondays are so popular because people are repenting their weekend decisions. Perhaps a weekend workout is the way to go if you’re looking to have the gym all to yourself.

Figure 2 – Average Swipes into Mitchell Over a Day

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We can also show you the times of day Mitchell is busiest – between 3:00 and 4:00pm. So if you’re trying to avoid the rush, you may want to reschedule your 4:00pm workout; 6:00pm might not be a bad time, considering the steep drop off after 5:00pm. It also appears that the 6:00am early risers are more common than the 9:00pm night owl.

So once you get down to the gym, who can you expect to see there? What if we told you we could predict whether or not a student swipes into Mitchell at least once a week, based on just a few factors about their day-to-day campus life?

It just so happens that 127 distributed a survey to the entire student body the very same week that these swipe transaction data were being collected.[1] The survey was taken by nearly 600 students – most were on campus and swiping throughout the week. Because both data sets contain the same students, we are able to merge them into one congruent set, measuring both swipe frequencies and their answers to various survey questions.[2] While a variety of data have been used in previous 127 articles, this is the first time we’ve merged multiple distinct sets into one.

19.95% of students in the sample swiped into Mitchell at least once in the week.[3] Who are the students in this group? What are the factors dragging these students to Mitchell? Or keeping the other 80% away? Using logistic regression, we can use answers from the survey in order to predict whether or not someone swiped into Mitchell.

To get an idea of what student schedules look like, we asked how many hours a day students spend doing various activities, such as homework/studying, hanging out with friends, etc. Although we’d expect busier students to hit the gym less, only one accurately predicts whether you swipe into Mitchell – time spent watching television or playing video games. The more leisurely screen-time a student gets, the less likely it is that they head down to Mitchell.

Figure 3 – Students Getting More Screen Time Are Less Likely To Swipe Into Mitchell

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We know that not everyone consistently gets their standard 3 meals a day – only 29.4% of Denison students, in fact. Getting enough to eat is an important health habit, just as is incorporating exercise into your weekly schedule, so it’s no surprise these two habits are related – the more meals a student eats on an average day, the higher the probability they hit Mitchell at least once a week. It looks like incorporating other healthy habits into your routine, such as getting enough to eat, could also encourage more trips down to Mitchell. Although this is only true for non-varsity athletes; athletes will hit the gym regardless of how many they eat.

Figure 4 – Students Eating More Meals Are More Likely To Swipe Into Mitchell


Finally, there is one last way we can predict if someone’s getting to the gym or not – asking them. If someone says they work out 6 days a week, wouldn’t you expect they’re heading to Mitchell much more than the average student? It’s likely, but there are other scenarios to consider. Perhaps casual exercisers find other places to get their workout in. And I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t consider the possibility that some people may exaggerate or even lie about how much they work out.

In the survey, we asked students how many days a week they exercise. These students couldn’t possibly know we’d later compare their answer to their frequency of Mitchell swipes, so there wasn’t much in the way of accountability. Are Denison students trustworthy when it comes to their self-reported exercise rates?

Figure 5 – How Self-Reported Exercise Rates Reflect Mitchell Swipes


Yes, there’s a clear and strong correlation here – students reporting higher exercise frequencies are more likely to swipe into Mitchell. But on the other hand, is the trend as strong as you’d expect? If someone is really exercising 6 or 7 times a week, wouldn’t you expect their probability of swiping into Mitchell at least once to be higher than .3 or .4? So can you trust your friends about how much they work out? We’ll let you be the judge of that…

So if you’re trying to get to the gym more, it seems that developing a consistent and adequate meal schedule and pulling yourself away from the TV screen might actually help a bit. If the ‘gym crowds’ are a concern, it might not be a bad idea to get to Mitchell later in the evening or on the weekends. Of course, there are limitations to our data and analysis. For example, those illusive East-Quaders swiped into Mitchell about half as much as residents of other quads. Yet this doesn’t mean they’re working out less, it’s simply because they slip into Mitchell using the back door that doesn’t require a swipe. Nonetheless, many of the trends we found hopefully offer some practical advice for getting an extra workout or two in the gym.

Speaking of screen time, when Oliver Gladfelter and Eric Buehler meet in the Knapp lab, they spend 90% of their time debating the merits of Stata versus R and 10% doing data analysis.


1. The swipes tracked by Denison come from the week of April 3rd to 9th. The 127 survey was distributed on March 30th and remained open until April 9th.
2. Unfortunately, this means our sample includes only students who swiped at least once that week (sorry, abroad people) and also took our survey last semester (sorry, people who don’t check their emails). This reduced the sample size to 436 students. It should also be noted that no students had access to original data sets including student names; professor Paul Djupe handled that step of the merging process.
3. This doesn’t necessarily mean 80% of the student body didn’t utilize the gym that week – it is possible to get into the building without swiping. However, we’d expect students going multiple times a week to swipe into the building at least one of those days.

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