Opinions & Editorials

Missed opportunities: new Core neglects physical education

If there’s one thing Xavier students love more than complaining about subpar dining options, it’s complaining about the Core.
This usually takes the form of singling out courses that are included in the Core but don’t deserve to be. Philosophy and theology are easy prey. Literature and foreign language courses are also common targets.

It’s rare to hear suggestions for courses that should be added to the Core. It seems to be the collective consensus that more Core classes only means more blood, sweat and tears for students.

While I’m not quite sadistic enough to wish more blood or tears on my fellow students, I think a little more sweat wouldn’t hurt. So I’m going to complain about something that the Core doesn’t have: a physical education requirement.

Physical education requirements at four-year universities in the U.S. are at an all-time low. As universities seek to maximize students’ job market readiness by reducing required classes outside of majors and concentrations, physical education often doesn’t make the cut.

Our university prides itself on educating the “whole person” instead of merely shuffling students through the system and into the job market. The Xavier Core does a good job of enriching the mind and engaging the spirit, but the body is left out completely.

As an utterly un-sporty person, I get why the idea of a P.E. requirement may induce an eye roll. I didn’t come to college to run like a hamster on a treadmill or relive the traumatic dodgeball tournaments of my youth. We’re here to make our brains grow, not our biceps, right?

Right. But brains and bodies aren’t as distinct as we college students like to pretend they are when it’s 2 a.m. the night before an exam and we’re on our sixth beer and our seventh episode of “Family Guy.”

People like to cite the obesity epidemic as the reason Americans need to move away from a sedentary lifestyle. However, I believe the mental and emotional benefits of exercise deserve just as much attention as the physical benefits.

Healthy bodies go hand in hand with healthy minds. Exercise has been shown to enhance mood, improve cognitive functioning and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Teaching students to take care of their bodies can have a positive impact on their emotional health as well as their academic performance.

A 2011 study by the American College Health Association found that 30 percent of college students had felt “so depressed that it was difficult to function” within the past year.

Depression is a complicated mental illness with no “quick fix.” But if depression runs rampant among college students, and regular exercise has consistently been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, how could physical education be considered less important than an extra history course?

tatum-headshot

Tatum Hunter is a junior English major from Lebanon, Ohio.

Xavier offers a variety of intramural, club and varsity sports. Many students take advantage of these offerings. Many do not. A physical education requirement would help the un-sporty among us learn about the benefits of physical fitness, lay the foundations of a weekly fitness routine and find physical activities that they enjoy and would like to continue.

While one P.E. class may not transform anyone’s life, it would open the door for students to set their own health goals and find ways to incorporate fitness into their schedules.

I understand that some may cringe at the idea of being forced to exercise. But if I can make it through a semester of calculus without gouging my eyeballs out, then I promise you can play badminton for two hours a week.

The potential benefit to the mental, emotional and physical health of our student population would be worth adding to the Core or even replacing an existing Core class. I volunteer calculus as tribute.
Furthermore, I hope the university would invest in educating students about physical fitness before it invests in new workout facilities that students will use inconsistently and inefficiently.

As an institution dedicated to holistic education, Xavier owes it to its students to foster healthy bodies along with sharp minds and caring spirits.