Higher Learning, Lower BMI

Lincoln University, a college in Pennsylvania, has a unique requirement for graduation. Students who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher, meaning the balance between height and weight is so skewed that the person is considered to be clinically obese, have to take a fitness class at the school three hours per week. If they don’t complete the class, they don’t graduate.

As with many news articles that I comment on here, I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, I don’t think physical fitness should be a component of graduating from college. I know some brilliant people who are gigantically overweight, and the idea that they wouldn’t qualify for a degree is just absurd. And this isn’t a public elementary or high school, where all students are required to go through basic physical education. This is higher learning, where smart and dedicated students go to learn.

However, let’s be frank: if you’re clinically obese, you’ve got a problem. And the school isn’t saying you have to lose the weight and reduce your BMI to graduate, just that you have to take a fitness course called “Fitness for Life.” The class includes water aerobics, Tai Bo, and aerobic dance. The requirement forces obese students to make an effort to get in better shape, but doesn’t force them to actually succeed at it.

And yes, for students with lots of muscle mass, they can be excused from the requirement based on a waist measurement that shows they’re not obese.

Some students think this sort of class should be a requirement for all students, not just those who are obese. The school defends their selective requirement, though, by pointing out lack of enough funding for the entire student body to attend.

I personally think it’s great that the university wants to make students aware of their BMI. I didn’t know mine until I read this article and clicked on the link to check my own height/weight calculation. I know I’d be annoyed if my university had told me that I was so fat that I needed special classes in order to graduate, but I’d be a lot more disturbed if I was obese and didn’t know it.

For the record, I was relieved to confirm I am not actually obese.

So what do you think? Does this cross the boundaries of the university’s involvement in students’ personal lives, or is it a good “wake up call” for students in need of a healthier lifestyle?

One Response to Higher Learning, Lower BMI

  1. Jim says:

    Rather than make this a mandatory course only for those who are clinically obese… make it a mandatory course for every major and have everyone who attends the school complete the course as part of their general courses. Doing this would remove the stigma of having this labeled as an overweight person course and because it would show up on the transcript it would be a permanent label regardless of whether or not they are able to lose the weight or not.

    There are a lot of Universities and Colleges that have a mandatory physical education course as part of the degree requirements but because it is a general requirement it is not even a subject that is brought up.

    I know a lot of folks who were obese throughout school and right after school they started taking care of themselves and have kept the weight off. I on the other hand was underweight throughout school and as I’ve gotten older have found the pounds that eluded me in my younger days. I’m working on losing them again but it’s much harder to do the older you get. Just given ya a heads up.

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