Physical education is still important during college

January 15, 2013

Topic: sports medicine

Physical education is still important during college

New sports medicine research published in the current issue of Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport found an alarming surprise about physical education (PE) requirements at four-year universities in the U.S. - they rarely still exist.

Researchers from Oregon State University randomly selected more than 350 four-year universities and colleges and looked at whether they currently had a PE requirement, as well as if they did in the past. They discovered that, in 1920, 97 percent of college students participated in PE, whereas less than 40 percent do today.

"We see more and more evidence about the benefit of physical activity, not just to our bodies, but to our minds, yet educational institutions are not embracing their own research," said the study's lead author Brad Cardinal. "It is alarming to see four-year institutions following the path that K-12 schools have already gone down, eliminating exercise as part of the curriculum even as obesity rates climb."

Physical inactivity is a public health problem
Adolescents and young adults benefit from routinely engaging in physical activities, whether they be walking, jogging, swimming, pilates, dancing, dog walking or participating in a team sport. Exercising helps people build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is also a big part of weight control and can prevent the development of high blood pressure and other health complications.

However, the truth of the matter is that almost 50 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 21 years old in the U.S. are not vigorously active on a regular basis, and 14 percent of all young individuals do not engage in physical activity at all, according to the CDC.

Not enough pleasure
Physical inactivity may be tied to the fact that exercise does not, in some cases, cause pleasure. In turn, this can lead to people not being motivated enough to keep up a routine.

"The inability to experience pleasure during physical activity, which is often quoted as one explanation why people partially or completely drop out of physical exercise programs, is a clear sign that the biology of the nervous system is involved," said French researcher Francis Chaouloff.

Chaolouff's study, which was recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, explains why engaging in physical activity is a bad New Year's resolution, and that physical inactivity is a social and a biological concern.

Brain and body affected
Cardinal also made a connection between physical exercise and the brain. He reported that not only does physical activity help the body, but it also improves brain function when it comes to making decisions. He believes that requiring PE at colleges can set the tone for students to understand that staying active and healthy is an important goal to have and carry throughout their lives.

The University of Oregon is one of the only colleges that still makes PE a requirement for attending students.

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