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Activists say that forcing students to wear Fitbits is bad for health

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

Activists worry that students' mental health will suffer from being forced to wear Fitbits

Fitbits are everywhere — chances are pretty good that you or someone you know is wearing one right now.

They're a pretty cool accessory if you want to track your activity, but no one should be forced to wear them. However, incoming freshmen at Oral Roberts University were each required to buy the devices at the start of the fall semester to track their activity, steps, sleep and diet each day.

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And, get this, the students are required to get 10,000 steps a day — and professors have access to the information to use in grading. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, school claims that it helps promote a more well-rounded education "by focusing on the whole person — mind, body and spirit," president William M. Wilson told local news station News on 6.

"The marriage of new technology with our physical fitness requirements is something that sets ORU apart."

However, the focus on exercise is rubbing some people the wrong way.

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"There are so many different bodies out there; it just seems absurd to assign a grade to how a student uses their body," Kaitlin Irwin told The Mighty. Irwin — who doesn't go ORU — started a petition to get the Fitbit requirement dropped.

Irwin is a blogger with Proud2Bme, a youth program for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). She argues that the "whole body" focus isn't necessarily a good thing for students transitioning to life away from home.

"They’re transitioning from high school to college, they’re overwhelmed with academics, social life, and their own identity. Now ORU is adding another stressor," she told the website, adding that it could cause them to "develop an unhealthy relationship with exercise, their bodies and their self-esteem. It can encourage comparisons between different body types and capabilities and can take a mental toll on students."

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Irwin doesn't have a problem with promoting activity; the problem is with the focus on creating "ideal" bodies. "[O]ur society is still trying to determine a person’s value and success based on their body."

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