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Chaparral 2018-2019: 27.4 The Promise of Wellness

The Power of PhysEd and Health Education: The Promise of Wellness

Educating the whole student: mind, body, and spirit


by Erin Calderone, Jason Plourde, Dr. Lee Parks, and Laura Matsumoto


Fresh out of their high school graduation robes, they are excited. Let the world beware... brilliant, creative, and attractive adolescents are bursting onto the college scene! Then arrives an ice-bucket challenge: the first semester. Suddenly, those wild, colorful dreams diminish to faint hopes, including the hope that there is sufficient coffee available in the world to muddle through enough semesters to earn a degree, and eventually, a reliable paycheck.

As students attempt to fast-track their college careers, certain classes may be a harder sell than others. How many times have faculty heard, “But I’ll never use this in real life!”? Conveying the importance of Health and Physical Education (PE) course content sometimes presents a significant challenge, even though as faculty we know they may actually use it now (isn’t college real life too?). Consequently, health, physical activity and wellness are often put on the backburner, both during #collegelife and beyond.

As one way to address this challenge, the faculty of the Kinesiology Division has assembled scientific and empirical evidence supporting students’ need to enroll in these vital courses. By presenting this evidence in creative ways, we hope students will come to realize that their health behavior choices impact their success, both in college and in the professional world. Finally, we want to remind you that what’s good for the student is also good for the rest of us, who face our own ice bucket challenges in the professional world. Thus, we invite you to also check out the “OUR Wellness” column in Chaparral and find ways you can harness these health benefits right here on campus.


  • A study of 740 nursing and kinesiology students suggested that regular aerobic exercise is associated with higher GPA scores. The authors propose that an increase in Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and hippocampus plasticity could be the mechanism, as other studies have found these outcomes both immediately after exercise and due to chronic exercise (Bellar, et al. 2014).
  • Several studies indicate that physical activity, walking, and lifting weights can have beneficial effects on different measures of cognitive function – for example, light walking can help students learn vocabulary words and think creatively, and lifting weights may help with executive functions (Schmidt-Kassow, et al. 2014, Oppezzo, and Schwartz, 2014, Landrigan, et al. 2019).
  • Chronic physical activity is associated with improvements in working memory (Lom, 2017).


  • First-year college students who are physically active and eat plenty of fiber have healthier gut bacteria than those who don’t (Whisner, et al. 2018).
  • Physical activity rates tend to be lower among female students and minority students. These trends could increase health disparities in adulthood as these groups also have higher rates of obesity. College PE classes can provide a diverse student body with many opportunities to develop self-efficacy in physical activity and find culturally-meaningful formats that can be continued throughout the lifespan (Suminski, et al. 2002).
  • The so-called “freshman 15” is potentially a myth, but weight gain during college is not, and it is certainly avoidable. In one study of female freshmen, 66% gained an average of 7.5lbs, and this was largely attributable to a decline in physical activity (given that their caloric intake declined as well). The remaining students who lost an average of 5lbs did so by returning to their normal higher physical activity levels within the first 2 months of their freshman year. Awareness and promotion of health behaviors and healthy weight management strategies can be extremely helpful to students attempting to avoid weight gain in college, particularly during the transitional first year (Jung et al. 2008).
  • The transition from high-school to college or re-entry into college can place significant stress on students including academic, social, financial and life-change stressors. College students are a population considered at high risk for mental health issues and psychological distress. Physical activity rates tend to decline throughout high school and the transition to college, yet students who participate in vigorous physical activity during their transitional year tend to report more positive psychological well-being and fewer illnesses than their less-active counterparts. PE classes can help students manage stress, maintain or increase physical activity levels for improved overall health, and create social connections that could in turn help to increase retention during their first year (Bray and Born 2004, Bray and Kwan 2006).
  • In an online survey of university students in the UK, 60% reported insufficient physical activity, 47% reported an unbalanced diet, 42% reported getting drunk at least once a month, 16% reported smoking, and 30% reported low levels of mental well-being. Many of these health-behaviors influence each other and contribute to overall poor physical and mental health outcomes over the lifespan (Aceijas, et al. 2016)
  • At Oregon State University, researchers found that when students are required to take PE classes, it encourages those students who aren’t active on their own and need a little extra motivation. As they moved through the classes, students tended to develop more motivation to be active in the next semester. This can help them to not only become active while they’re in college, but adopt a lifetime of healthy behaviors (Kim and Cardinal, 2018).


In the medical world, it is tradition to prescribe evidence‐based treatments known to be the most effective, while entailing the fewest side-effects or risks. Evidence suggests that in select cases, exercise therapy is equally as effective or more effective than other medical treatments. Physical activity may also provide an additive impact when used as an adjunct therapy. To implement this preventive medicine strategy, the American College of Sports Medicine has launched “Exercise Is Medicine,” a global health initiative, whose objective is to make health promotion a standard in clinical care, connecting health care with evidence-based physical activity resources for people everywhere of all abilities. All health professionals and entities are included in this call to action, as it is now time that the health systems create the necessary infrastructure to ensure that supervised exercise can be prescribed as medicine.

Physical activity represents a cornerstone in the prevention of at least 35 chronic conditions (Booth et al., 2012). However, over the past two decades, considerable knowledge has accumulated concerning the significance of exercise as the first‐line treatment of many chronic diseases. These include psychiatric diseases (depression, anxiety, stress, schizophrenia); neurological diseases (dementia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis); metabolic diseases (adiposity, hyperlipidemia, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes); cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, cerebral apoplexy, and intermittent claudication); pulmonary diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis); musculoskeletal disorders (osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis); and cancer. Although there still is a need to define the most optimal type and dose of exercise, promoting exercise in general must clearly be a priority (Pedederson, 2012, Lobelo, 2014 and Booth 2012).

  • Glendale’s obesity rates have steadily risen since 1997. Rates now exceed overweight adults in Pasadena and LA county. The Glendale Quality of Life Indicators states that 57% of Glendale residents have weight issues: 42% are overweight and 15% are obese (City of Glendale).
  • Performing 3 hours of exercise weekly increases lifespan by at least 4 years (Reimers, et al, 2012).
  • More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities, and more than 80% of adolescents do not do enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth (HHS, 2017).
  • Nationwide, 25.6% of persons with a disability reported being physically inactive during a usual week, compared to 12.8% of those without a disability (HHS, 2017).
  • Fitness training leads to significant increases in brain volume in people between 60 and 79 years old (Colcombe, et al. 2006).
  • Physical activity stands among the most promising interventions aimed at brain wellbeing, because of its effective neuroprotective action and low social cost (Saraulli, Daniele et al. 2017).


According to research from the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 350,000 Americans suffered sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting in 2016, and most of those incidents happened inside homes.

This means it could possibly happen to someone in YOUR household. Are you prepared to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a situation would arise in your home?

Unfortunately, in a 2015 survey, the AHA found that approximately only 18% of Americans are currently certified in CPR. In Health 101 and 102 students can learn CPR and first aid, earn their CPR certification, and be prepared to someday save a life – most likely the life of someone they are close to (Benjamin, et al. 2018).


GCC’s Adapted Physical Education (APE) program has been collecting anonymous longitudinal data from Disabled Student Program and Services (DSPS) students enrolled in APE activity classes since 2013. The data consists of results from a 10-question survey which is administered in APE activity classes both pre-participation (at the beginning of the semester) and post-participation (at the end of the semester).

The data indicates that after participating in an APE class, students were more likely to:

  • Eat at least 1 healthy meal a day
  • Almost always get 7-8 hours of sleep
  • Exercise in their appropriate cardiovascular ranges
  • Not use tobacco
  • Have lost weight over the semester
  • Express positive perceptions of health
  • Engage in a fun activity at least once per week
  • Improve their ability to organize and manage time
  • Take quiet time each day

The following testimonials are taken from journals kept by students while enrolled in the APE classes:

“I feel better when I am exercising. It makes me feel stronger and healthier. I feel more alert.”

“My goal is to maintain my physical fitness and adjust my lifestyle. I want to increase my stamina and keep my spirit high for a happy and healthy life. These goals help me to keep high standards for my educational goals.”

“Keeping my weight, BMI and %body fat under control is essential at my age. The credit goes to the APE instructors who encourage me and help me to live a healthy life.”

“The three benefits of exercising are: I came out from home; I don’t think about my problems; and I get relaxed and calm for the rest of the day.”

“…I can exercise in my mind, get relaxed and get rid of stress. The most important thing is to stay active in my mind, even if I cannot move physically. Exercise helps me to stay positive. If we don’t train our mind and body, we will get sick… The only doctor who can help us is oursel(ves) with a healthy mind and movement.”

 “My goal is to maintain my physical fitness and adjust my lifestyle. I want to increase my stamina and keep my spirit high for a happy and healthy life. These goals help me to keep high standards for my educational goals.”

“…I have been a student at GCC for longer than I care to admit. I only started to exercise on the advice of my doctors. I hated exercise, but I enrolled in the Adapted Physical Education classes. I surprised myself by finding that I enjoyed activity and exercise. I was also surprised how much exercise helped me have the endurance and ability to focus, which helped me succeed in my academic classes…”


After reading this plethora of information, we invite you to reflect on your own health, fitness and wellness, and those experiences that brought you here. Now, consider our students and their lifetime threshold for those same factors. Do we have a majority who are truly active, fit, and well, or does that describe the minority? The reality is that cues for behavior change typically come when there is a catastrophic event such as a health diagnosis or a heart attack or stroke – but this no longer needs to be the norm. Health and physical education are vital resources for our students, now and for the rest of their lives.



Aceijas, Carmen, et al. “Determinants of Health-Related Lifestyles among University Students.” Perspectives in Public Health, vol. 137, no. 4, 2016, pp. 227–236., doi:10.1177/1757913916666875.

Bellar, David, et al. “Exercise and Academic Performance among Nursing and Kinesiology Students at US Colleges.” Journal of Education and Health Promotion, vol. 3, no. 1, 2014, pp. 48–52., doi:10.4103/2277-9531.127560.

Benjamin, Emella et al. “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2018 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association.” Circulation, 137:67–492, 2018.

Bray, Steven R, and Heidi A Born. “Transition to University and Vigorous Physical Activity: Implications for Health and Psychological Well-Being.” Journal of American College Health, vol. 52, no. 4, 2004, pp. 181–188., doi:10.3200/jach.52.4.181-188.

Bray, Steven R., and Matthew Y. W. Kwan. “Physical Activity Is Associated With Better Health and Psychological Well-Being During Transition to University Life.” Journal of American College Health, vol. 55, no. 2, 2006, pp. 77–82., doi:10.3200/jach.55.2.77-82.

Booth FW, Roberts CK, Laye MJ. Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Compr Physiol 2012: 2: 1143–1211.

Colcombe, J. et al. (2006). “Aerobic Exercise Training Increases Brain Volume in Aging Humans”. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences. 61. 1166-70. 10.1093/gerona/61.11.1166.

Jung, Mary E., M.Sc, Steven R. Bray PhD., and Kathleen A. M. Ginis PhD. "Behavior Change and the Freshman 15: Tracking Physical Activity and Dietary Patterns in 1st-Year University Women." Journal of American College Health, vol. 56, no. 5, 2008, pp. 523-30. ProQuest,, doi:

Kim, MooSong and Cardinal, Bradley J. Differences in University Students’ Motivation Between a Required and an Elective Physical Activity Education Policy. Journal of American College Health, 2018; 0 DOI: 10.1080/07448481.2018.1469501

Landrigan, Jon-Frederick, et al. “Lifting Cognition: a Meta-Analysis of Effects of Resistance Exercise on Cognition.” Psychological Research, 2019, doi:10.1007/s00426-019-01145-x.

Lobelo F, Stoutenberg M, Hutber A

“The Exercise is Medicine Global Health Initiative: a 2014 update” Br J Sports Med 2014;48:1627-1633.

Lom, Azeem R. "The Effects of Chronic and Acute Physical Activity on Working Memory Performance in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." Systematic Reviews, vol. 6, 2017. ProQuest,, doi:

Oppezzo, Marily, and Daniel L. Schwartz. "Give Your Ideas some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking." Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, vol. 40, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1142-1152. ProQuest,, doi:

Pedersen, B. K. and Saltin, B. (2015), Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 25: 1-72. doi:10.1111/sms.12581

Reimers, C D et al. “Does physical activity increase life expectancy? A review of the literature” Journal of aging research vol. 2012 (2012): 243958.

Saraulli, Daniele et al. “The Long Run: Neuroprotective Effects of Physical Exercise on Adult Neurogenesis from Youth to Old Age” Current neuropharmacology vol. 15,4 (2017): 519-533.

Schmidt-Kassow, Maren, et al. "Treadmill Walking during Vocabulary Encoding Improves Verbal Long-Term Memory." Behavioral and Brain Functions, vol. 10, 2014, pp. 24. ProQuest,, doi:

Suminski, Richard R., et al. "Physical Activity among Ethnically Diverse College Students." Journal of American College Health, vol. 51, no. 2, 2002, pp. 75-80. ProQuest,, doi:

Whisner, Corrie M., et al. “Diet, Physical Activity and Screen Time but Not Body Mass Index Are Associated with the Gut Microbiome of a Diverse Cohort of College Students Living in University Housing: a Cross-Sectional Study.” BMC Microbiology, vol. 18, no. 1, 2018, doi:10.1186/s12866-018-1362-x


“City of Glendale, CA.” 3.8 Adult Overweight & Obesity Rates | City of Glendale, CA,

HHS Office, and Council on Sports. “Facts & Statistics.”, US Department of Health and Human Services, 26 Jan. 2017,

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