It’s more fun to study with a tasty snack – maybe a late night pizza run or trip to the nearest fast food joint, and don’t forget the Mountain Dew! These types of foods aren’t the healthiest options and are often credited with causing the infamous “freshman 15.” They’re also leading to a higher obesity rate amongst college students.
According to the American College Health Association, the percent of overweight and obese American college students increased from 27.4 percent in 2006 to 29.2 percent in 2011. And one advocacy group predicts it’s only going to get worse. Trust for America’s Health released a report in September that predicts 39 states could have obesity rates above 50 percent by 2030. Now, that’s a bit startling.
“It is frightening, but it’s not surprising,” said Lorrie Laurin, Rasmussen College School of Health Sciences Dean. “Obesity has become an epidemic in America, and it’s costing our country billions of dollars in healthcare costs; more than smoking.” So, why is it so hard for college students to stay healthy? Laurin breaks it down to three bad habits.
3 Bad Habits College Students Have
1. College students simply don’t get enough sleep.
“What many people don’t realize is you actually burn more calories when you are asleep,” said Laurin.
2. College students have a sedentary lifestyle, meaning they’re often sitting – in class, in front of the computer or on the couch studying.
“The more you sit, the more you need to sit,” said Laurin. “Pretty soon you can’t go the mile.”
3. College students have poor eating habits.
“I can’t even tell you how often my students came to class with fast food,” said Laurin. “Many are coming from work, so they grab something quick on the way to campus or hit the vending machine.”
That type of food may fill you up, but Laurin says it won’t help a student perform better in the classroom. Instead – junk food, combined with inactivity and lack of sleep result in decreased energy, which affects your ability to concentrate, think and retain information. If that’s not reason enough, all those bad habits can lead to obesity and a lower quality of life – now and in the future. It can also cost thousands at the doctor’s office.
“You’d be surprised how small a person who is considered obese looks,” said Laurin. “Obesity is not just about the way you look though, but the health risks those extra pounds are creating for you.”
Image from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Actions to Prevent Obesity
1. Pack healthy snacks and leave them in your bag.
“A little planning at the beginning of each week can go a long way for your health,” said Laurin.
2. Stop making excuses for not exercising.
Physical activity doesn’t have to be an event. Laurin says to do little things like take a 10 minute break from studying and walk around campus, park farther away at the grocery store, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
3. As difficult as this may seem – get at least eight hours of sleep a night and take 20-minute naps when necessary.
“Staying healthy and preventing obesity is not a diet or a rigorous routine at the gym,” said Laurin. “It’s a lifestyle change that will not only help you live longer and save thousands of dollars in healthcare costs, but help you perform better in school, right now.”