More than half of four-year colleges and universities in the United States have dropped physical education requirements.
In the 1920s, almost every college student was required to take physical education and exercise courses. Today, that number is at an all-time low of 39 percent, according to a new study led by Oregon State University researcher Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise and sports science and a national expert on the benefits of physical activity.
He examined data from 354 randomly selected four-year universities and colleges going back to 1920, a peak year with 97 percent of students required to take physical education.
“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," Cardinal said.
Physical education sets the tone for students to understand that being active and healthy is as important as reading, writing and math. Cardinal said requiring just one or two exercise courses could at least jump-start a student into thinking about a healthy lifestyle as part of his overall college experience and his later life.
Cardinal suggested that the decline in physical education requirements could be a result of shrinking budgets and an increased focus on purely academic courses, similar to what has happened at public elementary, middle, and high schools.
The study is published in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.
— Anne Aurand, The Bulletin