College is demanding of its students academically, socially and emotionally. But the most difficult balancing act is between their physical fitness and academic success. The fact that one can easily take precedence over the other is a problem that Elon should solve by requiring students to take at least one course in physical education as a general education requirement.

Long before I started college life, I heard rumors of the dreaded “freshman 15,” the notion that incoming students often become so lazy and irresponsible that they gain 15 pounds.

Even though the term carried a sense of inevitability back then, I promised myself I wouldn’t be subject to poor nutrition, and that I would live a healthier lifestyle by myself. But there are some promises that just can’t be kept.

The point is not necessarily to tell students how they should live their lives, but to inform them on what exactly healthy living is. Even a single class can help students decide what they want to value in their lifestyles, instead of being left to figure it out for themselves.

While 15 pounds is likely an exaggeration of the average weight gained by freshmen, the message behind the term “freshman 15” is quite clear — many incoming students lack the drive and ability to make quality decisions in the face of the radical freedom provided by college life, especially concerning health.

In my case, though, what kept me from maintaining my physical health was the focus I placed on my studies and maintaining high grades. In the debate between physical health and academic success, I had chosen my side since my first day at Elon.

The fact that there are students who either choose to live an unhealthy lifestyle or don’t know how to live otherwise is problems worth considering for the university. The main issue is that with freedom comes great temptation — temptation to make irresponsible choices.

To be sure, college life is about finding balance between all different kinds of pressure, and this is an issue that affects Elon within both personal and social spheres. But we can find the balance between physical and mental health if we stop dismissing health and fitness as optional. Until then, for better or worse, we are left with whatever choices we make, healthy or not.