College is a transitional time, when students are often placed in a new environment for four years and face immense pressure to study and do well in classes. Since students' focus is often not on exercise, they may be less likely to exercise than they were in high school or will be after college. Problems students face by not exercising in college include weight gain, less social bonding and lower grades.
The rumor of the “Freshman 15”—the 15 pounds you supposedly gain during your first year of college—is grounded in some truth. According to Kids Health, college students gain an average of 3 to 10 pounds during their first two years at college 1. As a college student, you are in a new environment and might not be able to keep up the same exercise level you were accustomed to in high school.
If you go away to college, it may be the first time you have been fully responsible for your own meals, your class load and your time management. Often college dining halls offer unlimited food choices that are not always eaten in healthy amounts or combinations. It can be tricky to fit exercise into a busy schedule of classes and studying. College weight gain occurs when you are eating more and exercising less because of studying. Weight gain in college is particularly likely to occur if you respond to the stress that school can cause by eating more, instead of exercising away these anxieties.
- The rumor of the “Freshman 15”—the 15 pounds you supposedly gain during your first year of college—is grounded in some truth.
- It can be tricky to fit exercise into a busy schedule of classes and studying.
Less Social Bonding
Social & Emotional Benefits of Regular Exercise
Gaining weight is certainly a problem you face if you don't exercise in college, as is the missed opportunity for social bonding experiences. Joining a sports team is one of the tips Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., of Quintessential Careers recommends. If you played a sport or danced in high school, try out for that team or group at your college.
If you don't make the team, join an intermural team or start your own. Joining an active group or team gives you the opportunity to exercise in a fun, social environment. You will meet and spend time with people who are similarly passionate about the same activity as you.
Because your practice schedules will be the same, you will usually see your teammates daily, in practice and also during dinner, team parties and in classes. Teammates are people who can become good friends and help your social life as you go through college together.
- Gaining weight is certainly a problem you face if you don't exercise in college, as is the missed opportunity for social bonding experiences.
- Joining an active group or team gives you the opportunity to exercise in a fun, social environment.
In addition to improving your social life and keeping your weight healthy, exercise during college can also benefit your grades. A study published in 2010 in The New York Times found that vigorous exercise was linked with better grades 2. In this study, researchers examined the exercise habits and grades of over 250 college students attending Saginaw State University in Michigan. Their findings showed that students who exercised vigorously daily had higher grade-point averages than students who did not. On average, these students' grade-point averages were 0.4 points higher on a 4.0 scale.
- In addition to improving your social life and keeping your weight healthy, exercise during college can also benefit your grades.
- A study published in 2010 in The New York Times found that vigorous exercise was linked with better grades 2.
Social & Emotional Benefits of Regular Exercise
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- Kids Health: What's Behind First-Year Weight Gain?
- New York Times: Vigorous Exercise Linked With Better Grades
- Bewick BM, Mulhern B, Barkham M, Trusler K, Hill AJ, Stiles WB. Changes in undergraduate student alcohol consumption as they progress through university. MBC Public Health, May 2008.
- U.S. Census 2000, 2008.
- Yager Z, O'Dea JA. Prevention programs for body image and eating disorders on University campuses: a review of large, controlled interventions. Health Promotion International, June 2008.
A freelance writer based in San Francisco, Ann Bartkowski began writing professionally for the New York State Department of Heath in 2006 as a science educator. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Bates College. Bartkowski has published numerous articles for various websites, specializing in nutrition, children, health and the environment.