Rutgers analyzes whether to implement physical education requirement
A recent study at Oregon State University found that almost 40 percent of American colleges currently have a required physical education class, necessary to complete for graduation. Although alarming to some, this percentage has rapidly declined from the 1930s, when nearly every college in the nation enforced the policy.
Brandon Alderman, assistant professor and researcher in the Department of Exercise Science and Sports Studies said he finds it just as important to educate the body, as it is to educate the mind.
“Education of the body is not only learning how your body moves but also learning different activities that you could do,” he said.
Alderman said if students had an early, positive experience with fitness it would increase the likelihood that they would continue the habit on their own.
If a student is not inclined to run marathons but maybe interested in learning about rock climbing, college would be an excellent time to do that, he said.
“Required gym classes that allow for choice, activities-wise, would give students the opportunity to develop positive skills that they could engage in for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Although these types of classes can still be found on campus, Alderman finds that having a requirement to utilize them would ensure all students are aware of the importance of daily exercise and actively work to incorporate it into their changing schedules.
“I think sometimes the knowledge [of being healthy] is out there, but in college it falls on the wayside,” said Sara Campbell, assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Sports Studies.
Rutgers has phenomenal recreation programs with marathon runs, Zumba nights, yoga in the park and sponsored spa days, which, with the help of social media, are not hard to find, she said.
But Campbell thinks that exercise requires some level of self-motivation.
She explained the removal of required fitness in colleges is similar to the gradual elimination of music and art classes in middle schools and high schools.
“I think one of the main factors is budget cuts,” she said. “I think [physical education], like arts and music classes, doesn’t fall under the mandated classes that teach skills like reading and writing. The focus has been on academic classes and many fail to see how arts and P.E. can enhance overall health in children and young adults, eventually improving performance in other academic areas.”
Because of busy lifestyles and stressful classes, Campbell said many students believe that walking to class is the only exercise they will need for the day.
For the past four years, Campbell has been teaching that physical activity is different from exercise in her Byrne Seminar class, “Obesity Today: Health, Environment and Society”.
“Physical activity is walking to class, but exercise is something done intentionally in addition to what you perform every day,” she said. “Walking to class is a great way to get started and an activity that all students do, but it’s important to do something that will also elevate your heart rate.”
Alderman and Campbell both agree that daily exercise for young adults, aside from the obvious cardiovascular health and weight regulation, can aid in cognitive functions such as mood stability, concentration and focus.
“If you look at any scientific papers, you find that there are so many social and health benefits,” Andrew Trinidad, a School of Arts and Sciences senior said.
The exercise science and sports studies major said when people work out they tend to feel better about themselves and are more active, energetic and likely to go out to be social.
Rosalind Schick, a School of Arts and Sciences junior who attends the gym daily, reported similar feelings.
But despite her personal motivation, Schick believes that having a mandatory class would infringe on personal freedom and choice.
“If you’re not fit and don’t want to be fit — it’s a personal choice,” she said. “It would be nice if colleges promoted recreation classes and activities but it’s not necessary because we’re all adults here.”
Schick also noted that money becomes a factor when pursuing fitness, in terms of campus recreation classes.
She said taking recreation classes that require a fee do not present as much of an incentive as investing in an academic course could because sometimes, there isn’t an immediate benefit.
“I can see why having a required class would be helpful, but in the long run. We have a school of diverse individuals and [therefore] need diverse resources,” Azima Mansuri, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said.
She said there are free gyms for everyone and recreation classes for those that want something more specialized.
“Ultimately, it is up to us to make the effort,” she said.