(image via The Atlantic)
Why do college students – especially freshman – gain weight, as much as 11 times more than typical 17 to 18 year olds? The obvious answer is that they eat too much and exercise too little. But why? What’s behind this unhealthy mix?
At root, it’s simply the transition from high school to college, one of the most monumental of life’s transitions. The risk of weight gain is significantly higher during this transition than during virtually any other periods of change in a person’s life.
A series of studies and common sense observations explain why.
College students sit…a lot, attending classes during the day and studying afternoons and evenings.
They also often eat sporadically, irrationally, and poorly. There are all you can eat breakfasts and lunches at college cafeterias. Up to 20% of weight gain is attributed to those meals alone. There are also countless coffee shops, cafes and junk food outlets on campus, offering everything from lattes and pastries to fries, burgers and soft drinks. And then there’s alcohol. Lots of it.
There’s comfort food binging, triggered by school stresses and home sickness. And there’s free food events on campus that always seem to offer cookies, brownies and muffins.
For the first times in their lives, most freshmen are fully responsible for their own meals, class schedules and time management. Add to this overwhelming amounts of school work, projects, jobs, and 24/7 social stimulation and the response often is cheap, quick calorie-laden snacks and meals, and little exercise.
More than half of college students do not meet the government recommended goal of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. In one study, more than a third of college men and nearly half of college women reported no physical activity during the previous month.
And eating habits on campus are just as dismal. One study says 90% of students do not eat the government recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
This failure to embrace healthy living can affect nearly every aspect of a student’s life. We explore those ramifications in our next installment.