updated 10/3/2006 7:10:52 AM ET 2006-10-03T11:10:52

As a member of Dickinson College’s volleyball team, Cara Scaduto gets plenty of exercise, but she still has to take physical education courses in order to graduate.

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“It’s a very important thing for everyone to have their heart healthy and your body in shape,” said Scaduto, 21, as she sat on an exercise machine Monday in the campus fitness center.

Dickinson’s commitment to health has given the 2,300-student liberal arts college in south-central Pennsylvania a new distinction: fittest college campus.

Citing the school’s physical education requirement, its recreation center amenities, and range of healthy choices in its dining halls, Men’s Fitness magazine put Dickinson on top in a ranking of the nation’s “fittest colleges.”

The second annual survey of nearly 12,500 students at 115 colleges and universities will be published in the magazine’s October issue, which hits newsstands this week.

Men’s Fitness put the top 25 schools — which also include Colgate University, Boston College and the University of Vermont — on its “fit list.” Last year’s fittest was Brigham Young University.

The rankings are based on student responses to questions about their diet and exercise habits and about the availability of fast food, nutritionists and fitness trainers on campus, editor-in-chief Neal Boulton said.

“It’s a commonsense study,” Boulton said. “We take a look at the kinds of foods offered in college cafeterias ... is there information available to students to encourage good eating and nutrition, and perhaps fitness advice?”

At the same time, the top schools offer a range of nutrition and exercise choices, rather than forcing students to adhere to a strict regimen, Boulton said.

“They provide a very balanced lifestyle within which anyone could exist, whether they’re kind of cheating a little or in a fitness mode,” Boulton said.

The magazine also placed eight other schools deemed underachievers on “academic probation”: California State University-Long Beach, Carnegie Mellon University, Eastern Michigan University, Flagler College, Seton Hall University, University of Michigan-Flint, University of Missouri-Rolla, and University of New Orleans.

April Vari, Dickinson’s dean of students, said promoting physical fitness and wellness for both students and employees is just as important to the college as providing a well-rounded liberal arts education.

“One of the things that makes Dickinson distinctive is how broadly we interpret fitness and wellness throughout the campus,” Vari said. “I think there’s something for everybody.”

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