fat · fitness

First required PE, now mandatory BMI testing in college?

Last Wednesday (which, for many of us bombarded by the horrific US news cycle, seems like a long time ago),  Samantha posted about a new experimental program requiring college students to take physical activity classes.

Requiring physical activity helps sedentary college students be more active, but will it ruin their lives? 

Commenters on the blog post and FB page (I don’t know about twitter– yeah, I gotta get to that) had a lot to say about their experiences (good and bad) in physical activity classes. What I saw as the big takeaways are:

  • Variety is key to happy physical activity (sailing, yoga, martial arts, dance, ping pong…)
  • Choice is key to happy physical activity (no mandatory dodgeball with teams picked by jocks)
  • Timing is, in a way, unimportant– physical activity classes can be fun at 21, 34, 47, 60…
  • Requiring students to take them?  Uhhhh… That’s a hard one.  Lots of great arguments for and against.

Also during the weird blur that was this past week, the FIFI bloggers saw this article by body positivity maven Ragen Chastain.  It was about a mandatory course at Vanguard University that requires students to undergo BMI testing, body-composition testing, and both fill out and analyze food logs to look for or self-identify eating disorders.

You know, some policy questions are hard and nuanced and rich. The issue of incentives vs. requirements for physical activity class for college students is one of them.

But not the question about mandatory physical education/wellness/something classes, including required BMI testing (and food logs and self-analysis about eating disorders).  The answer is easy.


If you are more of a textual and less of a visual person, here are my main takeaways on the issue:

  • no
  • no
  • no
  • no
  • no
  • no


A few years ago, I gave a presentation on use of BMI report cards for K-12 health professionals. I could give you a detailed account, but the short version is this:

Hanging NO, against a yellow/orange background. I want one of these for my office.
Hanging NO, against a yellow/orange background. I want one of these for my office.


If you are interested in actual arguments or reasons, post in the comments, and I’m happy to talk about them.

Until then, I remain concisely and dogmatically yours..





2 thoughts on “First required PE, now mandatory BMI testing in college?

  1. In addition to BMI being bunk, I’m troubled by the idea of requiring students to fill out and analyze a daily food log. Couldn’t this make maintaining recovery harder for someone whose eating was already disordered? Or exacerbate (or even help create) a damaging emphasis on “good” vs “bad” foods or “clean” eating? I hope students are permitted to opt out of the food logging for these reasons.

    1. You’re absolutely right about this. In the article, one of the students who was required to maintain a food log reported difficulty with maintaining her recovery from bulimia. I hope this trend of such courses doesn’t catch on.

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