OPINION: Fitness requirements contradict building a healthy relationship with exercise – N.C. State University Technician Online

Posted: July 3, 2020 at 5:44 pm

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As many of you know, each student at NC State must take two semester-long fitness classes at the 100 or 200 level in order to graduate. While students with disabilities who are registered with the Disability Resource Office are eligible for accommodations, fitness classes cannot be substituted for a lecture course, which means that all students will have to engage in some sort of structured activity which meets the standards mandated by the University.

I do agree that developing a healthy lifestyle and building a relationship with exercise can increase mental and physical well-being. However, required fitness classes, especially those with rigid standards and performance-based evaluation, is antithetical to the idea of joyful movement and has the potential to be psychologically harmful.

A students grade is dependent on meeting the requirements set forth by the instructors in the class, this means that students may be forced to continue with the exercise even if they find it is creating a psychological burden. According to the Exercise Dependence Scale, there are several factors which indicate that individuals could potentially have an unhealthy relationship with exercise. One of these criteria is a reduction in time spent engaging in other activities, such as spending time with friends, and another is continuance, or feeling the need to push through activity despite injury, whether physical or psychological.

I am not necessarily suggesting that fitness classes cause exercise addiction, but I can see how it would be difficult for someone with a preexisting exercise dependency to take a fitness class. Being required to meet certain standards for a workout could potentially be harmful for those with preexisting conditions, such as eating disorders, exercise addiction or body dysmorphia, as well as those who already have an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.

Even for students who choose to utilize the S/U grading scale for fitness class, there are still numerical standards they must reach in order to receive a passing grade for the class. For example, some classes require students to work out three or four times a week, and these workouts have to meet a certain time standard such as thirty minutes in order to count as complete.

While it makes sense that fitness instructors want to implement a standard to ensure that students are participating in the class, why does this standard have to be measured in numbers? For example, students could fill out a log after each workout, recording how they felt in their body while doing the workout, including the muscle groups that were engaged, which would promote a more comprehensive understanding of the physiological processes behind the workout. It could also provide an opportunity for students to reflect on how the workout impacted them mentally as well as physically.

In fact, I dont think that a fitness requirement is necessary at all, given that tuition-paying students have access to a massive fitness and recreation complex, which includes a plethora of activities to explore and engage in different forms of exercise, including club sports and fitness classes. Having the freedom and autonomy to do this without it being a requirement is far more conducive to building a healthy relationship with exercise.

Instead of treating movement like an obligation, or as a task to complete that only counts after reaching a certain time, distance or heart rate, why cant we approach exercise as an exciting way to discover what we are capable of physically and mentally, as well as a way to find what types of exercise we enjoy and which types we dont enjoy? Instead of teaching students that we have to exercise a certain amount to be healthy, cant we use these classes as an opportunity to develop a joyful and sustainable relationship with exercise?

As adults, we have a lifetime to foster a healthy relationship with exercise. Requiring two semesters of fitness classes that are evaluated on performance is not only completely irrelevant to getting a degree, but takes time away from other activities such as studying, spending time with friends and finding activities we are genuinely passionate about.

Of course, I am sure there are students who enjoy and benefit from the fitness classes, but why cant these classes be optional? After all, it is up to us to decide how to manage our own health. Being told that I have to exercise a certain amount based on standards created by someone who has zero understanding of my mental and physical health is insulting and ridiculous.

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OPINION: Fitness requirements contradict building a healthy relationship with exercise - N.C. State University Technician Online

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July 3rd, 2020 at 5:44 pm

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