Building Healthier and Slimmer Students | 让学生们变得更健康、苗条
The summer before my first year of college in Iowa, my friends and loved ones gave me a flood of advice. They told me what to pack, how to take notes and avoid partying my grades away, and what courses of study or majors I should consider. They also told me their homespun answers to warding off the infamous “Freshman 15” – the unflattering weight gain that often comes along with cafeteria meals, junk-food fueled study sessions, and empty calories swallowed during weekend parties and nights out. Their advice ran the gambit, from, “avoid brown foods,” to “follow every meal with a big cup of tea.”
Ultimately, my answer for warding off the ‘Freshman 15’ was the same one that is touted and used, in my experience quite successfully, in China: exercise.
Here at Tsinghua University, one of China’s most prestigious, physical activity for undergraduates is not just encouraged, it is mandated. For the duration of the year, every male student is required to run at least 3,000 meters per week on one of several designated tracks. Prior to running, they must check in with their student card and log in their exercise. The requirement is less stringent for females, but is still present. This requirement comes on top of a mandatory semi-military training at the beginning of the school semester, in which first year students wake at the break of dawn to march with a drill instructor, do PT exercises and take part in team-building exercises like group jump rope.
It’s an impressive sight to see early in the morning, as hundreds of students in camouflage fatigues jog and chant, and, as the sun sinks, hundreds more students flock to the track to pound out their mandatory exercise.
I can imagine the response if the same requirements were placed on American University students, who pride themselves on individuality, free-thinking, and generally challenging norms – “No Way!”
Despite the admitted loss of freedom that comes with the system of mandatory physical education in China, the effects are noticeable. Very few students here are obese, and those who are generally aren’t overweight to the same extremes as many American students. Granted, this is a result of more than the mandatory exercise requirements (less binge eating and drinking, smaller portion sizes, etc.), but it definitely cannot hurt.
What amazes me most about the system, though, is that nearly all of the Chinese students I’ve talked to accept the requirements, shrug them off as a necessity of study, and don’t buck the system or try to cheat.
“We understand it’s just something we must do,” Raymond, one of my friends who’s a graduate student at Tsinghua, says. “There’s nothing we can do about it, so we just do what we must.”
My question to you, then is, should American University install a similar system of mandatory exercise? It builds discipline, burns calories, and would, after all, help combat that tricky Freshman 15.
Students already exercising and living healthy lives would have little to fear because the requirements would be light, aimed at getting the laziest bunch off the couch and away from the potato chips. But, in the end, is it worth it? Does the end goal of healthier students justify the means? I’d love to hear your feedback.
When I was in my primary school in China, my school became a semi-military school when I was in Grade 3. We were required to be trained by real marines and march around the school. The training program would last throughout the year.
When I went to secondary school, we had to go through a light training session before the year started. I was both surprised and proud to find out that I knew all the training items as I have learned them years ago. Then I was disappointed to see that none of my new friends were impressed by that and the training quickly ended.
I am not sure how China is like now, but if nothing has changed, I do not think the military training for students are effective, at least not as effective as the program designer hoped to be. Most students just see it as something that they have to do thus most of them go through these training half-heartedly. I personally do not think these students would receive any benefits from the training at all.
When I was in Singapore, there was no training for students unless they join certain clubs. All male students are supposed to go through military training and serve in Singapore's Army for about two years. However, students in Singapore are required to pass a physical exam every year which includes a 2400 meter run. They are also required to run a 5000 meter cross-country every year.
Many people told me that I should expect to gain a lot of weight when I came to the United States. I did gain the expected weight within the first year. However, I think the weight came from the diet instead of lack of exercise because I went swimming everyday during that year. I feel most American diets are just not balanced enough, most of the time people eat the same dishes every day.
I can see that more and more Americans around me are becoming more aware of their health conditions. They are focusing more on not only the diet or physical exercise but also psychologically. I think this is what most Chinese lack of. I wish I can see more Chinese students getting involved with community activities and volunteering in the future.