Oral Roberts University Requires Students to Wear Fitbits

Posted By Eliana Osborn on February 22, 2016 at 9:03 am
Oral Roberts University Requires Students to Wear Fitbits

Oral Roberts University is trying something new to keep college students active and healthy—Fitbits all around.  Unlike many schools that create programs and hope for involvement, ORU is requiring Fitbit wearing. According to their press release, this is an evolution of their Whole Person Education requirement, in place since 1965.  Aerobic activity is part of student grades, though only incoming freshmen have to use the devices.

ORU might be the latest and most dramatic example of campus health initiatives but they certainly aren’t alone.  The image of new students slipping into poor eating habits is longstanding.  Many schools are working on their dining programs as their main focus. For example, Duke University doesn’t just have a dozen options (including a food truck) but it also allows students to meal plan and find out nutritional information about whatever they eat.  Most schools offer vegetarian options at each meal. Yale’s Sustainable Food Program involves two farms—one on campus—for students to grow and learn about organic agriculture.

Why such an emphasis on health in this age bracket? Stress and anxiety are serious college issues, leading to physical and financial problems when they don’t get treated. The CDC’s tips for staying healthy as a college student include things you might expect about sexual health and alcohol consumption. But they also focus on eating well, getting exercise, and managing stress.

The Partnership for a Healthier America works with numerous colleges to put together holistic campus programs. “Each college or university partner has committed to meet 23 guidelines—developed by PHA in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts—around nutrition, physical activity, and programming on campus.” From community colleges to huge universities, 38 schools have created multi-pronged wellness initiatives. Areas of focus include Food and Nutrition, Physical Activity and Movement, and Programming.

Fitness centers are a big ticket item on many campuses, with cutting edge designs and bragging rights.  Pools, climbing walls, weightlifting, classes, and other options are growing in popularity as part of recruiting efforts. At Spelman College, fitness classes are the big push after they left the NCAA and stopped competing in sports. Inside Higher Ed reports 1,300 out of 2,100 students enrolling in such classes in 2014.

The most successful wellness programs don’t focus just on food or physical fitness. Healthy U at the University of Pittsburgh combines all aspects of health under one umbrella: financial, medical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, and environmental wellness, as well as safety. Recognizing the many components of wellness is helpful from a planning and organizational perspective, as well as for teaching students about balanced living.

The University of Chicago uses the tagline ‘Find Balance’ for their system.  “Health Promotion and Wellness is committed to providing programs, services and resources that create a campus culture in which you can make informed and proactive decisions about your health and wellness.”  With a full events calendar, health becomes part of typical college activities.  Meditation, pets, stress busters, peer counseling, and more are offered to help students with overall wellness. UC even offers training about alcohol for groups that want to serve it at parties.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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