I took my last gym class in grade 10, the same year I stopped playing organized volleyball and soccer. Three years later, in my first university undergraduate year, I stopped biking after my and my brother’s bikes were stolen. Over the next two years, I focused so much on my studies that I rarely exercised. I knew the university gym was free for students, but I was in Arts and the gym was on the opposite end of campus.
It wasn’t until I got a bike again in the spring of my third year that I really got back into exercising. Yet even then, biking was more of a means to an end, a way of skirting the inconsistent public transit system. As a graduate student, I’ve realized the importance of exercising and of bodily health. During my undergraduate years, I was so focused on my brain that I ignored the rest of my body, not considering my physical health, thinking of exercise only as something that would take time away from my studies.
During my undergraduate years, I was so focused on my brain that I ignored the rest of my body.
I began this post talking about gym class because I wonder what it means in Edmonton. The higher you get in education, the fewer requirements exist for physical activity. Obviously, gym isn’t perfect: the structure advantages athletic kids, there can be a lot of bullying in the setting, and the units don’t always seem to be designed with disabled students in mind. Perhaps simply having gym as a core subject isn’t a good idea in itself. But I think it’s not a good idea to remove the engagement of the physical body from academia. The recent BA renewal proposals never mention exercise, nor do they push to ensure students are given time to use other parts of their bodies than their brains. Would it be beneficial to have a Physical Activity and Recreation course as requirement in all faculties? Or to require that students are given assignments that allow them to perform physical activity related to their studies? Or that on some days, homework would simply be to perform physical activity?
Of course, answering these questions must keep in mind differences of ability. If done, I think it would be an important step; we must remember to take care of our physical body as well as our mental well-being. As an undergraduate, I lost focus of my body. But now that I bike, play Frisbee and basketball, and rock climb, I often feel less weighed down by school. Escaping through exercise, bonding with teammates, and using my mind to figure out non-school-related problems are refreshing.
Interestingly, I found my way back into physical activity through the university. I started biking again as a way of getting to the university, I started playing basketball and Frisbee after being asked by friends I met through working at the Centre for Writers; and I rock climb on campus. While not officially sanctioned, I found my way back to my body through the university, and I’m glad I did.
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.