More students should look toward P.E. classes

A universal fact about college is that when midterm season rolls around, the stress levels among students rise exponentially. This midterm season, I have noticed, has been particularly stressful for students as the projects, papers and exams pile up. I fell victim to this last week as I tried to master time management to keep stress levels as low as possible.

One test I wasn’t expecting to be stressful? My yoga midterm. I took yoga this semester as a way to bring some balance to my school and work life. Yet, while prepping for the exam this past week I found myself using flashcards to remember the Sanskrit vocabulary and watching YouTube videos to review key poses. I actually set aside time to study for this one-unit P.E. class.

I’m not the only one. Other Trojans have shared stories about how they ended up auditing their yoga class because instead of finding serenity, they found another class to stress about.

At USC, like most U.S. universities, P.E. classes are not required. A 2013 study showed that only 39 percent of colleges require their students to take a P.E. class. A century ago, that number sat almost at 100 percent.

Some colleges are trying to buck that trend and keep physical fitness at the forefront of their students’ minds. A college in Oklahoma recently made it mandatory for its freshmen to wear Fitbits to track their daily physical exercise. Students at Oral Roberts University must take a physical education course — in which they must walk 10,000 steps a semester in order to receive their diploma.

Larger universities have maintained this pattern as well, including Ivy League schools Columbia University and Cornell University.

Yet, students at USC could greatly benefit from accessing a P.E. class every semester.

Kyle Peterson, a junior majoring in international relations global business, has taken full advantage of USC’s P.E. classes. In just two semesters, he has taken yoga, self-defense, weight lifting and physical conditioning. Though he initially signed up to complete elective units, Peterson has found purpose in the classes beyond just their academic offerings.

“I do [physical conditioning] right in the middle of the day,” Peterson said. “It really helps to keep me sane and sweat every once in awhile. It’s a way — outside of a midterm or paper — to see improvement.”

Sometimes students shy away from the classes that focus on physical exercise because of the stress to be perfect in them. That’s what I thought. On my first day in yoga, I was wondering why I wasn’t as flexible as everyone else in my class. When you’re getting a letter grade, like in other academic classes you know you have to perform at a high level to succeed. But that is not the case in P.E. classes at USC. Many instructors stress that it’s about personal improvement.

Everyday in class my yoga instructor says: “Don’t look at others on their mat. Focus on what you can do on yours.”

So when taking a P.E. class, you’re not just burning calories but starting the process of pushing yourself for a greater payoff down the line. In addition, P.E. classes speak directly to the conversation about mental health on campus.

“This goes into mental health and well-being,” Peterson said. “It helps me relieve stress. I think it’s important to have those goals for yourself and something that is outside of the classroom, even if it’s just two hours of the week.”

Despite me feeling a bit pressed about my yoga midterm last week, I would have to agree with him.

The University is constantly reshaping its academic offerings. They have placed a broad range of physical education classes for us to sign up for. The University doesn’t have to make them mandatory because they give us so many options of how to access those classes, whether that is through auditing them or taking them pass/fail.

The first step is signing up, then setting our alarm clocks to wake up and taking part in those physical education classes. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it later.

After reading “Wait An L.A. Minute” on Tuesdays, join Jordyn Holman in her millennial conversations on Twitter at JordynJournals. She’s a senior studying print and digital journalism.