Colleges and high schools traditionally have slashed physical education and health curriculums that serve a multitude of students and have continued to support and fund competitive athletics, which provides opportunity for a relatively small percentage of the entire student body. Spelman College, the oldest historically black U.S. college for women, is flipping this script. The private school, based in Atlanta, Georgia, will cease competing against other college athletic teams and put its $1 million annual sports budget toward improving the health of all 2,100 students.
Currently, Spelman fields about 80 student athletes, while the wellness program has 300 participants, and is limited by financial and facility constraints. By expanding the wellness programs and student opportunities the college will move from an emphasis on developing sports skills to a model that focuses on fitness for life.
The college plans to expand fitness programs such as strength training, Pilates and yoga, and is raising money for a new student recreation center. The decision was generated in part by the health statistics for African-American women that include higher rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure than other groups.
Not only does this make good physical sense, the potential to increase academic performance by improving the health of students is significant.
The Spelman College model is an exciting template that can benefit students at many high schools and colleges. Kudos Spelman for taking the initiative and being leaders in promoting, physical fitness, good health and wellness!