College is often described as the best time of your life. Accordingly, it should expose students to a variety of experiences. Unfortunately, however, USA Today reports that fewer colleges are requiring students to take classes not directly related to their majors. In particular, budget cuts force schools to drop physical fitness and diversity requirements. Though dropping physical education requirements affords students more freedom, universities still need to make fitness a priority.
Compulsory college physical education classes were created with good intentions, yet they are limiting and ineffective. College students do not want to take another high school-style gym class complete with fitness tests and mandated activities. Instead, most want the freedom to choose how and when they exercise.
But rather than allowing students to fulfill their fitness requirements by choosing the specific physical education classes that appeal to them, many schools are abolishing their fitness requirements altogether. Though this allows students to focus on academically rigorous courses and possibly graduate faster, it neglects their physical health.
Ironically, as colleges do away with physical education, they are simultaneously constructing state-of-the-art gyms. According to USA Today, the cost of many of these “come-when-you-can fitness centers” is automatically added to the school’s tuition.
But what good is a brand-new gym if students do not know how to properly use it? Aside from the safety risks associated with improper form, most students do not know how to use the gym efficiently. The fact that a school has a fitness center on campus does not automatically make students more fit. Colleges need to motivate and instruct students so that they can make the most of their school’s gyms.
For instance, USC offers fitness classes through Dornsife but only allows four physical education units to count toward graduation. This translates to roughly two physical education classes and does not allow students to explore their fitness options. USC should not only make it easier for students to sample a variety of exercise options, but encourage it.
Many schools boast intramural sports leagues and group exercise classes, but simply offering these options is not enough. For college students on notoriously tight budgets, the $75-per-semester fee for group exercise classes at USC can be enough to turn students away. Even though some colleges offer specific exercise classes as part of their curriculums, these classes displace academic courses.
According to the president-elect of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Steve Mitchell, “Students and parents are less willing to pay for things that are outside their immediate academic disciplines.”
This is an attitude that can be seen at schools across the nation.
At USC, the university’s commitment to fitness needs to go beyond just exercise. Nutrition is especially important during high-stress times, such as finals week. During this time, McCarthy Quad is often packed with students looking for the free food that USC provides. However, instead of offering food such as In-N-Out, Chick-Fil-A and unhealthy food trucks during finals, SC should make nutritious food available to accommodate those late-night study sessions.
Clearly, colleges need to teach more than academic and career-related skills. USC needs to prepare students for life and teach them how to manage their obligations while staying fit and healthy. Despite programs, such as USC’s “BeFit. BeWell” campaign, there is still room for improvement. Colleges need to promote lifelong habits for success beyond academics.
USC can make changes to help motivate and educate students about how they can stay in top mental and physical form. Offering free classes on how to safely and effectively use the gym will help students make the most of the school’s fitness facility. Healthier dining options will also help integrate healthy living into the school’s culture. These changes will do more than stave off the freshman 15. Rather, they will hopefully create healthy habits to last a lifetime.
After all, college is “the best time of your life” to learn how to live your best life.
Veronica An is an undeclared freshman.