While 63.1 percent of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese according to the 2009 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, USC students are turning to physical education classes to be healthier.
About 2,100 students are enrolled in physical education courses this semester, which is a 250-student increase from fall 2010 and a 200-student increase from spring 2010, according to Steve VanKanegan, director of the physical education program.
“Students are choosing to explore physical education not just to round out their schedules, but because they recognize the importance of being active,” VanKanegan said.
He said he thinks the primary reason for the increase in the number of students enrolled in physical education classes is the quality of the instructors.
“Our instructors have a complete background in the subjects they teach,” VanKanegan said. “We’re not putting [instructors] in classes unless they have played, coached or had extensive experience [in that field].”
He said student desires to be healthier have been another driving force behind the department’s growth.
“Students are becoming more aware of the importance of health and well-being,” VanKanegan said.
Mackenzie Ross, a sophomore majoring in international relations, said she enjoys taking physical education classes at USC because they motivate her to be healthy.
“Exercise is really important for being healthy and staying in shape,” Ross said. “Gym classes here are a fun and educational way to get into exercising and stay motivated.”
Some students find it difficult to set aside time to work out in between class and homework, so the physical education classes make students prioritize time to exercise.
“It’s really important to be healthy while you’re at school,” said Stephanie Guo, a sophomore majoring in communication. “I don’t think I’d have time to work out with the classes I’m taking, so putting it into my schedule really helps.”
Josue Enriquez, a senior majoring in civil engineering, said physical education courses are a great outlet for students to relieve stress.
“Taking [physical education] classes helps you de-stress from academic classes. I’ve taken many P.E. classes, [and] all the classes have been amazing,” Enriquez said.
The department has recently added new classes, including surfing and table tennis, to appeal to a wide variety of students. The surfing class, which was added in the fall, was filled on the first day of registration, according to VanKanegan.
The department is working to continue this growth by looking at the possibility of creating a minor in physical education, VanKanegan said. He said this minor would be attractive to students who are wishing to pursue a profession in physical therapy. So far, no steps have been taken to look further into the addition of the minor.
“We believe we’re going to continue to grow for years to come because we have a talented core group of instructors, and students are realizing the importance of good health,” VanKanegan said.