Texas State University currently offers about 60 different physical fitness and wellness classes, ranging from basic exercise courses to the National Collegiate Athletic Association sports organizations. At one point in the university’s history, all students were required to obtain two credits for physical fitness and wellness classes, but this is no longer the case as of 2014. The university’s decision to remove the requirement was not ideal for the health, experience and education of students and it would be beneficial to reintroduce the measure for future students.
The removal of PFW requirements for universities is not exclusive to Texas State, but rather follows a much larger pattern across the country. According to USA Today, in 2010, only 39 percent of college students reported having to satisfy a PFW requirement, compared to 67 percent in the ’80s and 97 percent in the ’20s. The percentages are even lower when only looking at public colleges and universities. Currently, only the McCoy School of Business requires a PFW credit for all students regardless of their degree plan, although the College of Health and Human Performance recently introduced requirement qualifications for some of their students as well.
The benefits of physical education are complementary to traditional classroom instruction. Just as we promote growth and sharpness of the mind, regular exercise should also be prioritized in the interest of maintaining student health and wellness. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise helps improve health, mood and promotes higher social engagement with peers. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 85 percent of college students report feeling stressed and overwhelmed by everything expected of them. Encouraging PFW education in college students can help alleviate this stress. PFW classes will not solve the complex issue of mental health at the university level, but they would certainly be a step in the right direction for student health.
For students who are not athletically inclined, the idea of being forced to participate in physical education after high school may seem dreadful. But the implementation and variety of PFW courses allow for greater choice than the typical conception of PE, which may just be running and climbing a vertical rope in a hostile gym. Students can satisfy their credit with less conventional exercise, such as bowling or racquetball. The university even offers outdoorsy opportunities, like backpacking and canoeing. These courses are accessible for students with no experience in the activities and maintain an environment which fosters learning.
The opportunity for accessibility of these activities at the university level is also unique as it transcends prior socioeconomic limits. Some students come from communities and backgrounds where they did not have the opportunity to pick up activities like fencing because of a lack of resources. At the university however, they have access to this outlet just as much as a literature or science class. And while they can certainly pursue these courses without a requirement in place, the publicity of optional classes is not sufficient to reach all students. It may be the case a student would jump at the chance to practice judo at school, but if they are ignorant Texas State even offers the class, it’s not likely they’ll register. If made a requirement, students would be compelled to research the scope of PFW courses offered and take the one they are the most interested in.
The list of core requirements for students can already seem exhausting, but PFW courses are typically only one hour and the benefits of this single hour more than justify its existence. Reintroducing the requirement would only be one of many steps the university should take in ensuring student health. Physical fitness and wellness courses are the intersection of these values and make school more fun and interesting. The university has an obligation to safeguard student safety and promote education.
– Zach Ienatsch is a journalism senior