Where does physical education fit into our notion of a well-rounded post-secondary education?
University and college life can represent some of the most demanding times in our lives. With commitments to studies, part-time jobs, often living away from the family for the first time, paying students loans, and the stress of finding future employment, there often isn’t time to dedicate to healthy living.
Physical activity in curriculums
According to a recent study, physical activity among university students is becoming a particular concern in the United States, which may represent a greater trend in other countries such as Canada. Even though most campuses offer exercise facilities, these tent to be used only by the healthiest of school populations. For other students, particularly first-years, international students, and students with lower fitness and skill levels, using campus exercise facilities can be intimidating.
A recent study shows that there was a time when American state universities required students to take physical activity courses as part of their curricula. In 1920, according to a random sampling of 354 four-year universities, 97 percent of students were required to take physical activity courses. Now, only 39 percent require them. According to Brad Cardinal, spokesperson at Oregon State University, the trend likely stems from shrinking budgets and greater focus on academic courses—similar to what is happening among public elementary, middle, and secondary schools.
Healthy students = healthy brains
Healthy practices such as getting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate- to-vigorous intensity physical activity a day, can not only improve our overall physical health, but also our cognitive performance. Studies show that proper exercise improves the area of the brain involved with higher-level decision making.
Attention to physical health is something that employers are starting to pay more attention to as well, as healthy employees are likely to have better attendance and performance on the job.
Get on track
With obesity being expected to surpass smoking as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Canada, college and university student populations could be a prime demographic for effective, life-changing motivation. “College isn’t too late to start influencing students and getting them on a healthy trajectory,” says Cardinal, who advocates that campuses better incorporate physical education into their programs.
In the meantime, students, here are some ideas for how to get active: