Healthy Lifestyles on Campus? Not Yet

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2001 Volume 12, Number 3
©2001 Gürze Books

A sampling of students at Texas A&M suggests that college students seem to be better educated about nutrition and exercise, but many aren’t adopting healthier lifestyles.

Jenna D. Anding, PhD, and other nutritionists evaluated 60 female students enrolled in 3 university aerobics classes. The researchers used the Self-Reported Activity Scale, a 10-point scale ranging from no exercise to more than 10 hours/week) and 3-day food records.

They measured height and weight, to calculate body mass index (BMI), and assessed physical activity and diet using self-reports. Eighty-five percent of the women were single and 90% lived off campus. The average age was 21 years, and 23% were Black, 32% White, 20% Asian, and 23% Hispanic. More than a third reported that they took the aerobics class to lose weight; others enrolled because it was required or to improve physical fitness.


Only 9 women ate 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and none reported eating the minimum number of servings from the Food Pyramid. Mean total fat intake was 37% of total daily calories. Two-thirds ate too much saturated fat (11% of total daily calories), and 20% ate higher than recommended levels for daily cholesterol intake. Only 8% of the women got less than 10% of total daily calories from sugar—the average daily intake of sugar was 3204 mg; more than half had reported sodium intakes above 2400 mg/day.

Nearly 100% of the women followed at least one of the daily guidelines, specifically the alcohol guideline. None of the women included a variety of foods in their daily diet, but 25% got regular physical exercise. Only 8% chose a diet moderate in sugar and 65% in sodium, and only 17% chose a low-fat diet.

Only 33% of the women were physically active, and the rest were classified as sedentary. The authors note, however, that the women had enrolled in the aerobics class, perhaps in an attempt to become more active. Although the BMIs suggest healthy weights, 25% of the women were classified as overweight.

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