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Losing sports for a few to gain fitness for all

Spelman College has opted to withdraw from NCAA intercollegiate athletics and spearhead a wellness program that focuses on healthy eating, fun physical activities, and personalized fitness goals. A historically black women’s college, Spelman decided to drop its sports program due to health concerns over its student population. Black women in the United States are twice as likely as white women to develop Type 2 diabetes, and four out of five black women are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The school decided the $1 million per year it was spending on an athletics program that served just eighty-one student-athletes would be better used to benefit the entire student body.

That’s why Spelman is offering more physical activities such as golf, swimming, and aerobics classes for its 2,000-plus students under the new program. "When you look at the word wellness, it’s a holistic approach: physical, mental, spiritual," says Chavonne Shorter, Spelman’s wellness coordinator.

This summer, the college plans to begin a $13 million renovation of Read Hall, which houses its current gymnasium and wellness program.
The decision, officials say, is in the best interests of the entire student body and will promote lifelong fitness for women who are particularly at risk for weight-related health problems. "The program will benefit students not only through the fitness component but also from an intellectual standpoint," says Germaine McAuley, director of physical education and athletics. "Overall, it will impact the total person."