Health care experts urge an increase in daily exercise given the rise of sedentary lifestyles and the medical risks associated with excessive weight gain. However, universities in the US are not encouraging students to take physical education the way they used to.
In the 1920’s 97 percent of college students in the US were required to take a physical education and exercise course. Today that number is below 39 percent. Over 34 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 19 are overweight and 17 percent are considered obese, according to Science Daily.
A study compiled data on 354 randomly selected college students, going back as far as 1920. Brad Cardinal, lead author of the study and a professor of exercise and sport science for the Oregon State University said:
“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. 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.”
Research shows that exercise not only improves physical health, but it also cognitive performance according to Cardinal.
“Brain scans have shown that physical activity improves the area of the brain involved with high-level decision making. We know employers often are concerned about employee health, in part because physically active employees attend work more and tend to perform better.”
Cardinal, who advocates for the importance of physical education, accuses lessening budgets as the usual culprit behind cut programs and requirements in both pre-college education and colleges. He stresses it is critical to establish a routine of activity at a young age, when it is easier to create good habits that lead to a healthy lifestyle.