Student health and obesity: College statistics and ways to help

With obesity on the rise among college students, it's important to take time to care for one's self.

With obesity on the rise among college students, it’s important to take time to care for one’s self.

Good research paper topics on health and fitness may include the problem of obesity on college campuses. Everyone knows about the “freshman 15”—the extra pounds freshmen put on in their first year of college. But the health statistics about overweight students are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 5.2 million college students are obese. Here is some information about causes and solutions for obesity on campus for research paper topics.

Statistics for college obesity

According to “Obesity on Campus,” by Phillip B. Sparling in Preventing Chronic Disease:

• 3 in 10 college students are overweight or obese

• 9 in 10 don’t eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day

• 6 in 10 don’t get 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week

In addition, over the past 20 years, young people in their teens and 20s have experienced a significant increase in obesity and related disorders such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia (increased lipids—cholesterol and fat—in the blood).

Contributions to obesity on campus

Many factors contribute to overeating on campus, including “the number of evening snacks, the number of meals consumed on weekends, the consumption of ‘junk’ foods, and recent dieting (recent dieters are more apt to gain weight),” reported Susan S. Lang in the article, “Freshman Weight Gain Has National Obesity Implications: Cornell Nutritionists Report That College Freshmen Gain an Average of 4.2 Pounds during Their First 12 Weeks on Campus,” in the journal Human Ecology, 2003, found on

But the major culprit is the cafeteria. “Significant weight gain during the first semester of college is a real phenomenon, with breakfast and lunch at all-you-can-eat dining facilities accounting for 20 percent of the weight gain,” said David A. Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences and psychology at Cornell University. In fact, a study by Cornell found that freshmen gained about 0.3 pound per week, which is 11 times more than the typical 17- to 18-year-old American gains, and 21 times more than the typical adult gains.

Other campus contributors to weight gain:

• coffee shops and cafés on campus with lattes and pastries

• late night study sessions with pizza, chips and energy drinks

• alcohol

• home sickness and comfort-food eating

• hours sitting all day in classes then again at night studying

How to combat obesity

You might want to put in your research paper some solutions to the obesity problem at colleges. Basically, the solution is simple common sense: eat healthily and get plenty of exercise. But that’s not always easy to do in a college setting. You could:

• start a Weight Watcher’s chapter at your school

• start pick-up sports games, a jogging club or cycling

• encourage your friends to have a Meatless Monday or Salad Tuesday

• use Facebook, social media and podcasts to promote diet and exercise tips for fellow students

Molly Anderson, communications specialist for Rasmussen College in Illinois, offers advice in “Don’t Become a Statistic: Prevent Obesity Now,” posted November 20, 2012:

• Pack healthy snacks and leave them in your bag.

• Stop making excuses for not exercising.

• Get at least eight hours of sleep a night and take 20-minute naps when necessary.

College administration helps fight obesity

Many colleges are recognizing the problem of obesity and are taking steps to help. In “Fighting the obesity epidemic on college campuses,” posted on November 7, 2011, Daylina Miller reports that the University of South Florida in Tampa has renovated the campus recreation center; built Champions Choice, a healthy foods dining hall that has a salad bar and serves fresh sandwiches and whole-wheat pizzas; and tripled the fitness area in its gym from 7,000 sq. ft. to 21,000 sq. ft. and added $1.2 million worth of exercise equipment.

College administration, the student health department, food services, counseling center, and student government can all help promote health on campus by:

• hosting a health food fair

• bringing in a nutritionist, dietitian or medical guest speaker to talk about healthy weight

• installing a bike or walking path around campus

• offering weight management counseling

• enlisting a popular teacher, coach or alumnus to be a spokesperson for a healthy lifestyle

For academic research on good research paper topics in the fields of health and fitness, check out’s Health and Medicine library of books, journals and magazine articles.

Have you struggled with the freshman 15? How do you keep healthy and eat right on campus?

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