PE Evolves Into Health and Fitness


The University of Michigan School of Kinesiology is announcing the discontinuance of the undergraduate major and minors in Physical Education (PE) beginning the fall term of 2015.

Those students currently admitted or already enrolled in the Physical Education undergraduate program and meeting benchmarks and deadlines will be able to complete their programs and receive degrees.

“The decision to ask the Regents to discontinue the Physical Education program was very carefully analyzed and systematically reviewed,” said Ron Zernicke, dean of the School of Kinesiology. Citing low enrollment over the past decade, with the steepest decreases over the last five years, the program underwent an extensive review. The decision to discontinue the program was reached following the review that included input from current faculty and an external board compromising faculty from colleges and universities across the state of Michigan.

A 2012 report published by United States Government Accountability Office stated the percentage of schools offering Physical Education at least three days a week has significantly decreased from 2000 to 2006. The 2006 School Health Policies and Programs study estimated the percentage of schools offering PE in all grades at least three days a week decreased by 44 percent in elementary schools, 15 percent in middle/junior high schools, and 56 percent in senior high schools. Additionally, school officials cited budget cuts and inadequate facilities for the ability to provide physical education opportunities in the same report; resulting in schools selecting to reduce physical education time because of limited funding for instructors.

In 2012, the School laid the foundations for strategic directions, and one of the key emphases that emerged was a focus on physical activity, health and wellness, and nutrition. Physical activity/inactivity and obesity became a focus of the School and—in parallel—the Physical Education faculty members considered how “physical activity, health and fitness” education and research could be transformed into a more comprehensive program and major. The result was a the new health and fitness major launched in the fall 2013.

Dean Zernicke said, “Physical education has changed names and forms over the last century at Michigan, from physical culture and hygiene, to physical education, to kinesiology, and now to health and fitness. At Michigan, we take pride in the fact we are ranked in the top five kinesiology programs in the country and will continue to deliver ground-breaking research, interventions, and programs that keep people of all ages and abilities healthy and active.”