Prioritizing Health and Wellness
Over the past 10 years, researchers have seen a growing number of college students suffering from depression, anxiety, obesity and hypertension. Those trends caught the attention of Amy Sharp ‘19, Texas A&M University’s newest Student Body President.
Sharp, who started her leadership role in April 2018, made physical and mental health one of the key focuses of her campaign. She says physical and mental health are issues most students can resonate with.
“Everyone I spoke to, as soon as I mentioned it, their eyes lit up. They told me that it is important to them and impacts them or someone they love.”
Sharp is working with Student Counseling Services on campus to better serve students and get them the access they need. She also points to physical activity as a way to relieve college stresses. This is something she learned first-hand with the help of the Physical Education Activity Program.
Physical activity can not only improve health, but also improve mood and promote higher social engagement with peers.
Even so, colleges across the country have reduced the physical education requirement from core curriculum or have dropped it completely. That decision is one Sharp is against. She is hoping, through her time as President, she can use advisors and faculty to get more students participating in kinesiology classes.
For Sharp, courses like these are about learning something new, being active and socializing with peers. When it came to navigating her new life at Texas A&M, making friends and receiving help and advice from upperclassmen and faculty was pivotal for her.
Faculty in the program are taking advantage of Sharp’s support. They are working to establish long-term programs across the university. The first step is targeting incoming freshmen at the New Student Conferences over the summer and then developing activities for students at Fish Camp.
“If they make activity a priority now, whether it is with us or at the rec center, if they get in that habit now, it will follow them over their lifetime. We’re hoping to help establish good routines now to set a foundation for lifelong activity,” explained Kristin Slagel, instructional associate professor in the Physical Education Activity Program.
“Activity is a lifelong thing,” said Frank Thomas, PEAP chair. “This isn’t about playing badminton, it’s about being active and healthy for as long as you can be. When you start sitting in a chair and not doing anything, things change in a hurry.”
PEAP faculty are also relying on Sharp and her cabinet to use their peer relationships to show fellow students how important physical activity is for mental and physical health.
“We are grateful and excited to have somebody that is so supportive. We want to take advantage of that momentum to get long-term programs established,” explained Slagel. “We see that part of Amy’s legacy could be to impact student health. That’s an amazing gift for Aggies now and moving forward.”
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