WEDNESDAY, Nov. 10, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. college students become less physically active and gain weight as they move through their academic career, a new study has found.
"Basically, students came out of college significantly less active and heavier compared to the start of their freshman year. But it is a gradual process," study author Jeanne Johnston, assistant professor in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said in a university news release.
She and her colleagues surveyed undergraduate students and found a dramatic decrease in the number of minutes walked per week. Freshmen walked an average of 684 minutes a week while seniors walked 436 minutes a week. One reason was that as the students got older, they used buses to get from one side of the campus to another, according to Johnston.
Other major differences between freshmen and seniors were found in moderate physical activity, vigorous physical activity, body mass index (a measurement that takes into account height and weight) and time spent sitting.
College is an important transition period, Johnston noted.
"It is the first time students are responsible for leading a healthy lifestyle," she explained. "It is the first time they have to manage their time and make time to exercise. It is a critical point in their lives, and colleges and universities can help influence them to make healthy choices by providing them with different programs and choices."
In order to achieve a healthy lifestyle, students can create personal plans that include enjoyable daily physical activities, Johnston suggested.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about college health and safety.