Each student at NC State is required to complete two credit hours of health and exercise classes, one from the 100 and one from the 200 levels, to fulfill GEP requirements. Compared to some other schools in the state, this requirement is high. UNC-Chapel Hill requires just one fitness class, while UNC-Charlotte has no health and exercise course requirements.
The biggest issue with requiring multiple health and exercise courses is that these courses are simply too hard to get into. Every semester, the 100-level fitness classes fill up quickly in the first few days of class registration. Additionally, most of the classes are offered at inconvenient times, and offer little in the way of flexibility.
Compounding this issue, unlike in other classes, health and exercise classes are more difficult to squeeze into the day. The need to change and possibly shower after a fitness class means you can’t schedule one to end 15 minutes before your next class, like you can with a normal course.
Another problem with scheduling fitness classes is that many of the sections are fully reserved for first- and second-year students. These restrictions make it that much harder for other students to work a fitness class into their schedule to fulfill the health and exercise requirements. Not every student takes fitness classes in their first two years of school, and the class restrictions in place on a good portion of the fitness sections offered limits their ability to take these courses.
There are also not many online offerings in fitness courses. For the spring of 2019, there are only eight online fitness classes offered, and none of those have more than 55 seats. They fill up quickly, and most have lengthy waitlists to get into.
In addition to these fitness classes being hard to get into, they are also hard to pass. Grading scales for these classes are adjusted based on gender and weight, and range from basic fitness tests, such as plank holds and push-ups, to the mile swim or mile run, depending on the class. Most students are forced to take fitness classes pass/fail, simply because attaining a good grade is unachievable unless students are already fitness enthusiasts.
NC State wants students who wish to achieve an A in run conditioning, who have had just 12 weeks of a fitness class, to run around a six-minute mile. For females, the time is 6:31, and for males it is 6:02. Running a mile in under 6:30 for college-aged male runners is something that only the top 1 percent of people can accomplish.
In swim conditioning, students who may have swum for years are forced to take the class pass/fail, because to finish the class with a perfect score, men and women must swim a mile in 23 minutes. This is less than 6 minutes slower than the last-place finisher at the 2018 ACC Women’s Swimming Championships.
As students aim to maintain high grade-point averages, taking a 100 or 200 level fitness class for a grade could lower their GPA because of the unrealistic standards. This forces many students to take fitness classes pass/fail because the high requirements aren’t feasible for the majority of students.
If the university sincerely wanted students to gain an appreciation for fitness and learn basic healthy living, succeeding in these classes shouldn’t only be possible for students who are already fit coming in. Even with a great deal of improvement, it’s unlikely that an average person would be able to improve to an A-level, due to the unrealistic standards of the class.
A system of grading that focuses on improvement, rather than overarching standards for all students, would help to promote the healthy lifestyle that the university hopes to promote in these classes.
The university’s rationale for the health and exercise class requirement includes statements about developing skills for a healthy life, gaining appreciation of health-related fitness, reducing stress and improving general social and mental well-being. But how are students supposed to properly appreciate and de-stress from “pressures of academic life” if the fitness classes themselves are adding unnecessary stress?
The fitness class system at NC State is flawed, as the grading and class availability add unneeded stress to student’s lives. Offering more online sections of fitness classes, removing classes that are reserved for first and second-year students and an overhaul of the grading system would be steps in the right direction for NC State’s Department of Health and Exercise Studies.
This unsigned editorial is the opinion of Technician’s editorial board and is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief