Choice, Flexibility, Variety: Play Oxford gives students a new way to exercise

Leanna McDonald 13OX earns her Play Oxford credit in a spin class.

Play Oxford, a new physical education program at the college, gives students their P.E. credits and also a new habit—fitting a healthy amount of varied exercise into their week.

Play Oxford’s structure makes it easy for students to juggle a rigorous academic load and meet their required two credits of physical exercise. Participating students spend half the semester in an instructed skill or activity and the other half in a monitored, yet self-scheduled personal program of physical activity.

“It is up to the student when they would like to participate, based on simple guidelines,” says Assistant Athletic Director Pete Sherrard, who created and administers Play Oxford. The program requires a student to complete thirty-six hours of physical activity in fourteen weeks (one semester)—staying within the healthy range of no more than two hours a day and no more than four hours a week—but on his or her own schedule.

How do students get credit for their self-scheduled sweat hours? Play Oxford is administered by physical education professors with the help of handpicked student supervisors. When a student exercises, he or she checks in with a Play Oxford supervisor, who logs the student’s activity in the Play Oxford system. When the student is finished, he or she checks out with the supervisor, recording the time.

The tracking system, which was created by Seth Tepfer, director of administrative technologies, offers students a long list of exercise choices, including forty-five-minute cardio slots, staff- and faculty-hosted activities, swim fitness slots, group fitness classes, intramural slots, and health and wellness seminars.

Janna Lowensohn 13OX participated last fall and appreciated the community of the program. “With all the Play Oxford opportunities and all the other students who needed to get their hours,” she says, “it was never hard to find a friend and go hit the weights, or go for a swim, take a nice jog, or meet up for some Zumba.”

Play Oxford’s variety, as well as the student’s own self-scheduling, helps instill a life habit of enjoying physical fitness.

“One of the goals for Play Oxford, as well as for the overall physical education program, is that students become aware of different modes of physical activity so they experience activities they otherwise might not have chosen,” says Penny England, professor of physical education and dance. “In effect, it is a kind of cross-training program that can prevent overuse injury and promote enjoyment through variety.”

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