Upperclassmen: drop that caramel roll and take note. Worry about weight gain does not end with the Freshman 15, according to a new study conducted by Indiana University, Bloomington.
The study included 1,672 students at Indiana University and found that freshmen spend four more hours exercising per week than seniors. In addition, freshmen walked about two hours more than seniors, while seniors sat almost two hours per week more than freshmen. The study was presented Nov. 10 at the American Public Health Association Meeting.
Jared Sander, a junior at Concordia, said the concept of weight gain during the upperclassman years does not surprise him. He said it can be difficult for upperclassmen to find time for an exercise routine.
“When I don’t have [commitment] it is so easy to skip,” he said. “It takes a lot of intrinsic motivation.”
When Sander was a freshman, he did not want to be a student who put on the stereotypical Freshman 15.
Sander was on the swim team in high school and would keep up with exercises by doing regular lap swim during his freshman year in college. Throughout his time at Concordia, Sander has also been part of the men’s club volleyball team and has found free time to run with friends.
As he moved past his freshman year, he said the struggle to stay fit became more difficult.
“Sophomore and junior year sneak up on you,” Sander said.
Most upperclassmen are busier than they were as freshmen, Sander said, and he suspects upperclassmen push exercise aside to make room for new commitments, including preparation for graduate school, professional school or a job search. He said celebrations for the final year of college could also take time away from exercise and lead to weight gain.
Sander is currently in three science classes that require lab periods, which means he has three extra time commitments per week with his full class load. When his school schedule is concrete, he said it is hard to find time to exercise.
Garrick Larson, the men’s indoor track and field head coach, teaches the recreational run training class and often advises students who want to improve their health and fitness through running. Larson said it is not fair to assume student activity will drop off as senior year approaches.
The commitment to run on Tuesdays and Thursdays in his class helps students form habitual exercise routines, Larson said.
“People function best when things are repetitive, every day,” Larson said.
Fitness does not have to be a student’s main priority, Larson said, but it should be one of their priorities. Larson said he advises students to use any amount of time they have to their advantage.
Busy students should set aside sacred time for fitness and protect it from every other commitment, Larson said. Whether that is a daily run for a track athlete, or three workouts per week for other students, the commitment is what matters, Larson said.
“Once you do something one time, it’s easier a second time,” Larson said. “Once something is a habit, it’s easier to keep and harder to break.”
It can be hard to get students to commit to an activity, Larson said, because they are nervous about other time commitments. When a student chooses to take time off from routine athletics, it alters their abilities once they start up again, Larson said.
Lauren Bostrom, a senior, ran track in high school and was on the track team at Concordia her freshman year. Bostrom had heard of the Freshman 15 before she came to college and said she wanted to avoid it.
Bostrom has not been a part of the track team during her other three years at Concordia, but she has tried to keep up with running on her own time.
Without the structure that came with the track team, staying committed has been tough.
“I just got really busy with classes and wanted more time,” Bostrom said.
Bostrom is enrolled in Larson’s running class for this spring and hopes the structure will help her be committed to running again, she said.
Vanessa Berg, a Registered Dietitian at Concordia, said weight gain due to a person’s year in college is an exaggerated myth, and control over weight gain is not up to a trend, but up to the individual. Sleep, food, exercise, stress and student choices are factors that contribute to weight gain, she said.
Berg said time constraints limit most students’ exercise time.
“If you feel like you’re reducing exercise when you’re busy,” Berg said, “it’s okay.”
Even 20 minutes of a workout will give a student the stress relief they need make good decisions, Berg said.
The stress that comes with college is one cause of weight gain, Berg said, because it can make a person overeat. Stress can also cause a student to skimp on sleep to study more, which can also cause weight gain, she said.
“It all goes together,” Berg said. “If you can keep up your activity, that’s going to reduce some of that stress. It’s all how you approach it.”
If students take advantage of the unhealthy choices in Dining Services, she said, there will obviously be a weight gain.
In addition to commitment to exercise, food is a factor in student weight gain on campus, Larson said. Dining Services offers too many food choices, he said, and students tend to choose what looks tastier.
“The number of bad choices at [Dining Services] outweigh the number of good choices,” Larson said.
The responsibility to steer students in the right health direction is the school’s, Larson said. While it helps that they mark the healthy from the unhealthy with a color rating system in Dining Services, Larson said there should be less unhealthy options available.
“Sometimes eliminating the [bad] choice is better,” Larson said. “When people are presented with bad choices, they’ll make bad choices.”
Dining Services could not comment on upperclassmen eating habits on campus, because upperclassmen visit Dining Services less frequently than underclassmen. However, a recent survey conducted by Concordia shows freshman and juniors rank the importance of nutritional content at 4.53 and 4.51 out of 5, respectively, while sophomores and seniors rank the importance at 4.35 and 4.27.
Bostrom lives off campus and no longer has a meal plan with Dining Services. She said she ate better when she had a campus meal plan choosing the produce and salad Dining Services provided, which looked better than anything she can make at home now, she said.
“Now I eat whatever is fast,” Bostrom said.
Sander’s meal plan allows 14 meals per week in Dining Services. He likes the variety Dining Services offers, he said, and does not like to skip meals.
“They can’t say they aren’t providing an avenue to make good choices,” he said, “but definitely when you walk by [the dessert station] Bliss, it’s hard to avoid that extra caramel roll.”
Julie Guggemos is a senior at Concordia studying English Writing. In addition to her position as PULSE Editor at the Concordian, she is also an intern at the High Plains Reader, a publication out of Fargo, ND, and a tutor at Concordia’s Writing Center. After graduation Julie plans to attend a publishing program and look for work in the publishing industry.