January 2, 2012
For College Students, Regular Exercise Not A Priority
Many things are left behind with childhood, and for college students regular exercise seems to be one of them, a new Canadian study suggests. Researchers followed 683 Canadian adolescents from 12 to 15 years old for 12 years and found a 24 percent decrease in physical activity from adolescence to early adulthood, reports Dorene Internicola for Reuters.
Appearing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study showed declines were steepest among young men entering university or college. Dr. Matthew Kwan, a researcher at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, said it might be a consequence of the big drop off in organized sports activity after high school.
“Team sports, varsity activities tend to decrease or drop off entirely,” Kwan said. “For those who go to college, studies become more important. Then there´s the social aspect that eats up their disposable time as well.”
Attention should be paid to this drop off, experts say, because those inactive in youth tend to remain inactive over their lifetime. “The transition from late adolescence to early adulthood represents the most dramatic declines in physical activity across a person´s life,” Kwan explained.
Dr. James Pivarnik, an expert with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), rold the Reuters reporter that much depends on the college or university. “Does the university you attend have the infrastructure to facilitate organized exercises, fitness centers, intramural sports? The built environment, as we call it, has a lot to do with how active people are.”
Pivarnik, suggests that students factor in fitness opportunities when deciding which school to attend. “It could be almost a recruiting tool -- show me your workout facility,” he said. “Most of these kids are changing their environment. It could be a factor.”
Canadian public health campaigns encourage physical activity but the McMaster researchers say little work has been done to prevent the decline in physical activity among college students and they suggest this issue should be made a priority.
To create a more fitness friendly campus, Pivarnik suggests, find out what works in other places. Then get the administration on board. “(Increasing) walking paths, changing where people park, providing access to facilities,” he said. “You can´t just say ℠We need $15 million dollars´. You´ve got to show some suggestions.”
He notes that some universities reserve the athletic facilities for their athletes. They are off limits to the general student population. “Why can´t we use the athletic facilities? Can´t we have open swim or running on the track? Sometimes it´s just simple communication,” he says.
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