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

Lots of us here on the blog have written about mandatory physical education turning us off exercising for a very long time. See here. Also here.

Sally had the strongest language, How Gym Class Ruined My Life. Hence, the title of this post.

We all professed relief when mandatory physical education came to an end.

So I was surprised to see this story make its way across my newsfeed. “When physical activity classes were required, university students not only got more active, their attitude also changed – they were more motivated to stay active in the future.”

When it was required at university students were more motivated. Really. Well, that’s what the study shows.

What do I think about requiring Phys Ed at university?

First, as a university administrator, generally I’m a fan of breadth requirements. Teach the engineers to write and to appreciate art. Make the artists take math. We should all know some economics, some basic science, introductory philosophy, and read really good books. I know there are limits but at the undergrad level I like the idea of well-roundedness. 

Second, I used my own tuition waiver as a graduate student to take PE classes for credit. I’m not sure I would be as comfortable in the weight room as I am now without my B in Fundamentals of Weight Training. I learned to deadlift from the Illinois Drug Free Collegiate Deadlifting champion. I also took Intro to Sailboat Racing to learn to sail small dinghies and use Northwestern’s lasers. Fun times. 

But still, students are adults. Maybe they should get to choose? But if I’m okay making them take a second language why not make them take gym? I guess my paternalism has limits. Its scope is university education, not leading a good life overall. I mean maybe they’d all benefit from a class on relationship skills. That might be true but I don’t think I’d require it, even I ran the zoo (to quote Dr. Seuss). 

What do you think? How would you have felt being forced to take Phys Ed at university/college? 


Image description: Women doing yoga, downward dog with one leg raised high, on hardwood floors, on yoga mats, view partly obscured by green fronds. 
Photo by Rima Kruciene on Unsplash