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Junior Faculty Exercise

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Interesting article on junior faculty and exercise:

In the quest for tenure, physical activity is the first casualty, according to a recent study of Canadian assistant professors that its authors believe applies to junior faculty at institutions in the United States as well.

The analysis, “Are New Faculty At-Risk of ‘Letting Themselves Go’ due to the Demands of their Profession?,” which was published online in Academic Matters, the magazine of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, traced the exercise habits of 267 assistant professors in Canadian universities. The paper, which has in recent weeks attracted attention from some American bloggers, found that professors starting out in their careers engaged in physical activity far less than others in their age group.

Some thoughts:

  1. As the article notes, tenure-track faculty often get married and have children (having delayed both), substantially reducing the amount of time available for traditional forms of exercise. In my experience, a successful exercise program depends on the development of good habits of exercise. Anything which disrupts the process of habit formation has a disproportionate effect on the exercise program.
  2. Technology matters. My acquisition of first an iPhone and then an iPad has increased my exercise time, because I feel more productive while exercising. Of course, it also channels exercise into particular forms; I can’t read my iPhone while running, even on a treadmill, and an iPad isn’t exactly friendly to a weight lifting program at a traditional gym. Still, picking the right technologies can reduce the tension between exercise and academic work. This will be less available to senior graduate students who have the same time problems, but less loose cash.
  3. This situation is deeply unsettling for departmental athletic teams. When junior faculty arrive in a department, they are often healthy, young, and somewhat athletic. This makes them ideal for departmental basketball, football, and softball teams. By the time the junior faculty achieve tenure, they’re broken down and virtually useless. As a discipline, it behooves political science to remedy this issue.
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