From Physical Education to Wellness: PHYSWELL prioritizes lifelong healthy habits

Feb. 2, 2023, 4:36 p.m.

Among the PHYSWELL courses, many bear little resemblance to the PE classes most students are familiar with from their high schools. With classes like “Walk ‘N Roll,” where students engage in walking, meditation and relaxation, there’s a clear emphasis on the wellness component of health. 

To reflect this focus on wellness, the physical education program switched its name to PHYSWELL this academic year. Director of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) and “Walk ‘N Roll” instructor Tia Lillie spoke on this shift.

“The wellness umbrella encompasses the physical aspect, but we feel that in order to be healthy, you need to be healthy both physically and in your mindset,” Lillie said. 

DAPER includes the recreation and wellness branch, which houses PHYSWELL, as well as the outdoor education program, which includes classes like climbing and kayaking. Through these offerings, students are able to enroll in courses ranging from weight lifting to power yoga to one entitled “Keep Calm, Jog On” — which Lillie also teaches. 

After overseeing the CalTech physical education program, Lillie came to Stanford with the goal of shifting the University’s physical education offerings away from just the physical aspect. “We really needed to focus on developing the student as a whole,” Lillie said.

With the self-care aspect to the PHYSWELL program, students are encouraged to incorporate what they enjoy into their lives at Stanford, whether it be socializing, reading for pleasure or painting. 

“I want them to start [practicing self care] instead of saying ‘I’m too busy.’ […] It’s almost like [Stanford students] feel they need an excuse to [take care] of themselves,” Lillie said. “I hope they learn that they can have time to do this, it’s just a behavior change.”

For students that feel the class they’re enrolled in isn’t a good fit, Lillie helps students find other PHYSWELL courses that work better for them. She also encourages students working through injuries and health issues to take a class as well. “I want everyone to feel like they belong,” Lillie said. “I try to find a place for everyone.”

There are both activity and workshop classes, including a nutrition and injury prevention class this quarter. Daniel Fay is a physical therapist who also teaches a swim conditioning course as well as an injury prevention assessment and management class. “I’m most excited about the injury prevention class,” Fay said. “It mimics a lot of what I do day-to-day, teaching my own patients about injury prevention and management.”

Every quarter the “Keep Calm, Jog On” class runs in a race, oftentimes with a social purpose. Last quarter, the class ran in the Race Against Pulmonary Hypertension, and next quarter’s will run in the Stanford Powwow 5k Fun Run and Walking Challenge. 

Third-year PhD student Sierra Davis is no newcomer to PHYSWELL courses, having taken five during her time at Stanford.  “My favorite was ‘Keep Calm, Jog On’ [because] I was training for a triathlon and it was a big kick-off,” Davis said. “I learned a lot about running and form.” 

According to Lillie, a common misconception is that it’s hard to get into the PHYSWELL classes, especially for subjects like swimming and golf. “I was able to get everyone from the waitlist into the classes [this quarter],” Lillie said. 

Going forward, Lillie hopes to reach even more students by potentially creating a new Ways requirement that’s fulfilled by PHYSWELL courses. “We’re really trying to set behaviors to help students stay active for the rest of their lives.”

A previous version of this article misspelled Daniel Fay’s name. The Daily regrets this error.

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