Forced physical activity singles out obese students

We keep hearing that heart disease is on the rise in America. How can such a preventable disease be so common and take over the population? There are many explanations, but a more important question is what can we do about it? Lincoln University in Pennsylvania has come forward and faced this epidemic.

In 2006, Lincoln mandated that students take a special one-credit gym class if their body mass index exceeded 30. This class must be taken in order to graduate for those who require it. The course itself meets three times a week and involves active fitness routines and information on nutrition, stress and sleep. With the 2010 graduation approaching, the freshman class of 2006 is feeling the pinch, and it is causing some significant tension within the student body (no pun intended).

Tiana Lawson, a Lincoln University senior, was one of several students who objected to the administration’s requirement. She wrote in the university’s student paper, “I didn’t come to Lincoln to be told that my weight is not in an acceptable range. I came here to get an education.”

It seems perfectly natural for an institution to set up a system where students are taught the important of good diet and exercise, but why single out some students? Students should not be labeled “obese” and then be forced to learn about health related issues because of it.

Obesity can be the result of a number of factors outside of not eating well and not exercising. Determining the cause of obesity is not black and white. Medications like anti-depressants, psychological problems and medical conditions that make losing weight more difficult are all factors to be considered.

It is also false that a person with an acceptable BMI is very healthy or leads a healthy lifestyle. Some people are more prone to gaining weight than others and having a good BMI now doesn’t prevent it from increasing to an unhealthy level in the future. Therefore, it makes sense to require all students to learn about these health issues.

National Public Radio interviewed James DeBoy, chairman of Lincoln’s department of health, physical education and recreation Nov. 24. He said, “We know we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. We have an obligation to address this head on, knowing full well there’s going to be some fallout.”

James DeBoy also made the point that students are not required to lower their BMI but only to pass the course in order to graduate. This makes the idea of requiring this class of all students even more feasible.

Aside from this, Lincoln University has made a respectable step in the right direction and faced an important problem. Perhaps in the future they may decide to change the way they teach students about maintaining good health rather than selecting those they believe to be unhealthy. Staying healthy is important and nobody is an exception to this rule.

Alexandra Aggor is a sophomore international communications major from Shaker Heights, Ohio.