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OSU Researchers: College PE Programs Dropping As Obesity Climbs

OPB | Jan. 7, 2013 12:09 p.m. | Updated: June 7, 2013 10:20 a.m. | Corvallis, Oregon

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Researchers at Oregon State University say physical education requirements at four-year universities have dropped precipitously. This at a time when almost 36 percent of Americans are obese.

Students get a full body workout in a Body Pump Class taught by OSU exercise science student Jacob Taskinen.

Students get a full body workout in a Body Pump Class taught by OSU exercise science student Jacob Taskinen.

OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences

In the 1920s, just about every college student was required to take physical education — 97 percent.  Brad Cardinal, a professor of sports science, says  that figure now stands at 39 percent. He says it’s been dropping since the late 1960s.

He explained, “I think budgets got smaller and programs got tighter and things got eliminated, it just sort of fell off the radar screen. At the same time, we saw sort of an increase in physical activity interest. I mean the running boom happened in the late 1960s through the 1970s. The fitness boom of the 1980s.”

Students get a full body workout in a Body Pump Class taught by OSU exercise science student Jacob Taskinen.

Students get a full body workout in a Body Pump Class taught by OSU exercise science student Jacob Taskinen.

OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences

Cardinal says an increase in student recreation centers has off-set some of the need for “Phys. Ed.”

But he says, if students don’t use rec centers, they miss learning about the benefits of physical activity.  He notes Spelman College, in Atlanta, recently dropped its NCAA athletics program, so it could spend the money on fitness programs for all students. 

The research is published in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

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