Experts have praised new policies that encourage physical education at universities, which will see students being tested on their fitness levels.
"This is the perfect time for such a policy," said Mao Zhenming, dean of Beijing Normal University's sports college.
"The physique of students from primary to high school has stayed steady for the past five years, thanks to a State-level project. However, college students are still growing weaker.
"This policy will trigger the schools and students to pay more attention to their health and exercise more," he added.
The policy will see students' physique and fitness added as a factor in evaluating their performance at the university, Wang Dengfeng, director of physical, health and arts education for the Ministry of Education, told China Youth Daily.
Mao predicted that student fitness levels will become part of the evaluation system for universities.
The current evaluation system looks at physical education programs, including investment in sports facilities, recreation areas and the rate of students reaching the national fitness standard, Mao said.
He hopes there will be more ways to measure physical education, such as the number of sports clubs, involvement in dormitory sports, and opening hours for recreation centers.
Random inspections from authorities are also necessary, he said.
A nationwide study of students' health and physique in 2010 found that college students were weaker than in 2005, when the last survey was conducted, according to the General Administration of Sport.
A lack of sporting facilities and unhealthy lifestyles were behind the worsening numbers, Mao said. He said he has witnessed a change in students' willingness and capability.
With almost two decades of experience in physical education, Mao said he worries about students' waning enthusiasm toward sports.
"A majority of students don't have any hobbies and they are not good at any. Playing sports is not fun for them," said Mao, explaining that students focus too much on test scores from primary school, but ignore sports.
"Some students even fear sports," Mao said. "Some boys are afraid to jump into the water during the swimming classes. It is not an issue of insufficient exercise, but rather the young generation lacks the spirit to challenge themselves," Mao said.
Wang Min, assistant professor of physical education at Shenyang University in Liaoning province, researched the physical well-being of the nation's youth for five years.
"College freshmen generally don't like sports lessons, and some even skip classes, especially track and field events," she said. "But when classes involve more fun activities, such as games, students gradually become willing to participate in sports by their senior year."
She also said students love sports clubs more than compulsory lessons.
Ma Yunfei, a student at Shenyang University, agreed.
"My ideal physical education course in college would be more clubs focused. Students would be able to select sports as they wish; working out, making friends and having fun," he said.
The 20-year-old philosophy major said he loves basketball and usually spends hours playing with his friends on weekends.
"But I'm not representative of all college students," he said, estimating that only 20 percent of his peers play sports.
"Every dorm has the Internet, which creates more homebodies," he said. "Time also flies by when shopping or spending time with boyfriends or girlfriends, and few of them are willing to spend time on sports."
Wang Dengfeng from the Ministry of Education said on Saturday that the new policy will soon be officially released by the Ministry of Education, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance and the General Administration of Sport.
He was speaking at a national universities' physical education conference in Tianjin.
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