In an effort to help curb the growing obesity rate among its student population, a university in China offers a weight loss class to overweight students.
The special course, offered at the Nanjing Agricultural University in East China since 2015, is the brainchild of physical education teacher Zhou Quanfu. The program runs for six weeks, consisting of three or four 90 minute classes per week.
Students with a body mass index of over 28 or body fat of more than 30% are welcome to sign up for the program, where they will be required to maintain a strict diet while participating in different physical activities such as jogging, running, and maintaining an abdominal bridge (planking).
According to Zhou, the amount of weight loss will make up about 60% of a student’s grade. Shedding 7% of body weight merits a student a passing grade for the course, China Daily reports.
Zhou revealed that he came up with the idea to introduce the course after the findings of a study conducted at the university five years ago revealed that 13% of the freshman and sophomore students were overweight.
“For all the variety of sports available in the PE class, these students are unable to play them unless they lose some weight,” Zhou was quoted as saying.
So far, the course proved to be quite effective as the 179 students who have already completed it have lost an average of around 5 kilograms (11 pounds).
Sophomore student Wu Xiuyang said the course transformed his life.
“After I shed some weight, I began feeling more spirited and slept better,” said Wu, who has shed over 25 kilograms (55 pounds) since joining the class in 2016.
In recent years, obesity has become a rising problem among the young people in China. From a mere 2.1% overweight 7-year-old students in 1985, the rate has exploded to around 12.2% in 2014.
In 2016, a study published by the Lancet Medical Journal stated that overall, China even surpassed the U.S. as the country with the greatest number of obese people in the world, rising from its No. 2 ranking in 2014.
According to the report, the country is home to 43.2 million obese men and 46.4 million obese women, which accounts for 16.3% and 12.4%, respectively, of the global obese population.
Experts have observed that the rise in obesity in China is caused by high-calorie diet and lack of exercise.