Typical eating and physical activity habits of University students

Typical eating and physical activity habits of University students

Eating and physical activity habits are usually established early in life, but most college students no longer live with their parents, and living arrangements have been reported to influence food choices, nutrient intakes, and physical activity patterns. Eating and physical activity habits of college students may change over their college or university experience. Colleges and universities provide resources (that is, recreational facilities, dining facilities and so on) that can substantially influence eating and physical activity. Therefore, a recent study assessed and compared the eating and physical activity habits of a group of lower-level (freshmen and sophomores) and upper-level (juniors and seniors) students at a large midwestern university.

Surveys are completed by 114 lower-level and 144 upper-level students, 19 years to 25 years of age. The two-page written questionnaire assessed demographics and typical eating and exercise habits.

Percentages of lower-level and upper-level students typically eating specified meals and snacks were similar, except significantly higher percentages of upper-level than lower-level (59.9% vs 47.4%) students reported typically eating an afternoon snack. Both groups reported similar non-alcoholic beverage consumption, places of meal consumption, factors influencing food choices (convenience and taste being the most popular), duration and frequency of various types of physical activity, and places of physical performance. A significant difference between groups was observed with regard to eating meals in university cafeterias, with 74.8% of lower-level and 84.4% of upper-level reporting not typically eating meals in cafeterias, which is likely explained by the residency of the students. Significant differences were also observed in typical frequency of performing other aerobic activities besides walking, and factors that most influenced their physical activity habits.

The study shows that few differences in typical eating and physical activity habits were observed between lower-level and upper-level undergraduate students, indicating the likelihood of few changes in these habits throughout the college experience. The significant differences discussed above should be taken into account in designing educational programs and interventions.

Judy Driskell, Young-Nam Kim, and Kelly Goebel, Few Differences Found in the Typical Eating and Physical Activity Habits of Lower-Level and Upper-Level University Students. JADA; 105:798-801 (May, 2005). [Correspondence: Judy Driskell, PhD, RD, Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0806. E-mail: jdriskell@unl.edu]

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