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Phys. ed means lower stress, more socializing

Fitness classes don’t deserve their bad reputation

By Kimberlee Green

Contributing Writer

In Maryland every semester, college students are required to take courses to fulfill general education requirements. Every college or university must expose its students to various disciplines. In addition to these academic requisites, UMBC is among one of the few institutions that also requires the majority of its undergraduates to take two physical education classes.

Though some students find it unnecessary, incorporating physical education into the general education program for UMBC students is beneficial for the student body. One of the primary benefits to this requirement is helping the majority of the student body achieve a more active and healthy lifestyle. As demonstrated in a 2005 study published in the Journal of American College Health, college students are notoriously inactive.

According to the authors of this study, only 58% of college students regularly participate in moderate to vigorous activity, compared to 91% of high school students who partake at least in moderate activity. Perhaps two semesters seems ineffectual, but it gets students moving a bit more on a regular basis.

Physical activity is also linked to mental and emotional well-being. Liam Bowen, assistant baseball coach at UMBC, agreed. “You can be the best chemical engineer in the world, but if you’re not a healthy and well person… your effectiveness in that role is going to be compromised. And not only at your job, but with your family and with your friends and your life outside of work…. I think two classes is pretty appropriate.”

Another boon to the PE requirement is in staving off stress. Between getting acclimated to the area, juggling classes, writing papers, maintaining relationships on campus and back home, working and occasionally sleeping, stresses and anxieties can run high. Some cope by eating and sleeping a lot, but even a simple 20 minute brisk walk or run a few times a week can help alleviate the unpleasant feeling of being overwhelmed.

One less statistically impressive advantage to being required to take PE classes is the social aspect. Last year, researchers at the University of Minnesota surveyed more than 14,800 college students at 94 four-year colleges across the country, and found that college students who socialized while participating in physical activity had better mental health and decreased perceived stress.

Physical activity is good. It decreases stress, one of the most famous aspects of college life. Maybe students should start looking at their required physical education classes in a more positive way.