Opinion

Winthrop's new major

With a significant number of obese adolescents at one end of the age spectrum and aging baby-boomers at the other, this is an ideal time for Winthrop University to build its new undergraduate major in exercise science.

Winthrop officials announced recently that the university is working to create the new major, which could be offered by the fall of 2009. While six other colleges and universities in the state already offer undergraduate degrees in exercise science, Winthrop officials believe demand is high enough to attract students who want to pursue that major.

Winthrop would offer a two-track program within the discipline. One track would be geared to students interested in becoming physician assistants or physical therapists. They would use the undergraduate degree to pursue graduate studies at a medical school or university that offers specialized study in the field.

The second track would meet the needs of those who want to work in fitness complexes, such as the YMCA, open their own training centers or become strength trainers or coaches. This track also would emphasize the business side of fitness training.

From a practical sense, both tracks of the program would provide students with highly marketable skills. With the growing emphasis on increasing physical activity and battling obesity among young people, a graduate with a degree in fitness training would be much in demand.

The aging population of baby boomers also presents lucrative opportunities for those who pursue a degree in physical therapy.

Fitness professionals already are in high demand, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It predicts that employment of fitness workers will increase much faster than the average occupation through 2014.

With the recent opening of the Lois Rhame West Heath, Physical Education and Wellness Center, Winthrop also has the ideal facility in which to offer hands-on training for exercise science majors. And while the major may not be offered until the fall of 2009, it still might be a course of study that might interest prospective students now in high school.

All in all, this new major should be a valuable addition to the curriculum.

IN SUMMARY

Exercise science major to be introduced in 2009 will teach marketable skills.

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