June 26, 2019 | 75° F

EDITORIAL: Mandatory fitness? Don’t sweat it

Oral Roberts University makes students buy Fitbits for class


This is America, and in the U.S. of A. people don’t like being forced to do things — not even exercise. If citizens don’t want mandatory health insurance or mandatory vaccinations, then the people of the United States certainly don’t want mandatory physical activity.

Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma mandates the use of Fitbits for a required physical education class for first-year students, and many are furious. It’s the only university to require students to log their health by using this form of technology, and it’s come under fire for making students buy the $150 Fitbit Charge HR that records a range of data, including fitness activity, heart rate, calories burned and sleeping patterns. The data gathered by the technology contributes to a student’s overall grade in the class.

While people really shouldn’t be forced to do things and there’s nothing wrong with valuing independence or the freedom of choice, there is still a plethora of things that people should do despite how annoying it may be (paying your taxes, shoveling snow on the sidewalk, getting an education, etc.). The Fitbit is quite expensive, but it’s the equivalent to buying a textbook for a class, and unlike a textbook for a specific class you might not open again, like a $150 textbook on the history of dung beetles, there’s pragmatic value to having the Fitbit after the class is completed. You can still use it to track your daily exercise.

Most of the ire comes from how the program might enable eating disorders. People on Twitter have responded to Oral Roberts University’s requirement and have said, “Take the numbers out of health and teach your freshmen how to love your body instead,” and “Handing a fit bit to someone struggling with or predisposed to developing an ED (eating disorder) is like handing an alcoholic a bottle of win.” Unfortunately, numbers can’t be taken out of health, because when you go to the doctor they must still measure your blood sugar, heart rate, etc. Individuals should love themselves, but also love themselves to the point where they’ll take care of their health. Additionally, giving someone a Fitbit can help someone with an eating disorder, since the professor is in a better position to see how a person worked out five hours a day and looks tired and has not eaten, and can then alert the school so it can provide the person with attention and medical service.

The physical education class in Oral Roberts University makes it a goal that students walk 10,000 steps per day and have 150 minutes of physical activity per week, which isn’t very strenuous. The 10,000 steps might seem like a lot, but walking to class instead of taking a bus or going to the gym and using the elliptical or treadmill can complete this requirement, and that's the daily recommended steps by the American Health Association. That number might seem high, and plenty of students feel like they don’t have the time to exercise, but if you’re getting college credit there should be time to fit these minutes and steps in.

It’s good to know that Oral Roberts University takes its students’ health and well-being seriously. Physical education courses are being cut throughout elementary and high school curriculums, but it’s crucial to a country that’s known for its astounding obesity rate. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in the U.S. is “common, serious and costly.” More than one-third (34.9 percent or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese, and obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes are the leading causes of preventable death. The estimated annual cost of obesity was $147 billion in 2008.

Making students buy Fitbits is just as radical an idea as buying textbooks and making health a priority.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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