Universities work to make fitness, good nutrition priorities on campus
Katie Johnson lived at home while attending Harrisburg Area Community College for two years, so she didn't really feel like she was on her own until she transferred to California University of Pennsylvania for her junior year.
Once she did, she experienced what many college students dread: weight gain.
But the gain didn't truly pick up until she began graduate school.
“I think definitely in my grad school program, I've experienced what I like to call ‘The Grad School 40,'” joked Johnson, 24, a second-year graduate student majoring in clinical mental health counseling.
“I think a lot of it comes with what food is available at the cheapest price, having the opportunity to be by yourself and choose what you want, and a lot of late-night hours.”
Many are familiar with the “Freshman 15” — the weight gain students sometimes experience during their first year on campus. But college weight fluctuations aren't limited to freshmen.
“It isn't necessarily that many pounds, and it certainly isn't just females,” said Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine. “I think guys deal with this, too, but the issue is that most people's weight doesn't stay the same. We could have some who lose 15 (pounds) because they stop eating, and some who gain 10 because they're eating more (and) they're eating at different times.”
The Freshman 15 expression became popular in 1989 after appearing in an issue of Seventeen magazine. A 2011 study by researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan at Dearborn found that the concept actually is a myth, as freshmen gain about 3 pounds on average, which is typical for people the age group..
Though the notion Freshman 15 has been debunked, colleges and universities are becoming more cognizant of the importance of nutrition and fitness among students — and so are the students themselves.
“Students ask about it,” said Colleen Ruefle, vice president of student life and dean of students at La Roche College. “They're interested in the dietary options, for one thing. Parents are also very concerned about it, so they ask about it during orientation. They want to know about nutrition options, what their son or daughter has the opportunity to experience.”
In recent years, Bonci said, universities have taken steps to ensure better nutrition.
The University of Pennsylvania doles out higher-calorie foods in smaller portions, and Duquesne University has “action stations” where food is prepared in front of students.
Other colleges, such as La Roche, have eliminated trays.
“Most parents don't have trays at home,” Bonci said, and students can fit much less food on a plate.
Bonci said many universities are investing in fitness centers as a recruiting tool.
One is Robert Morris, where a new fitness center was scheduled to open in the new Yorktown Residence Hall this week. The university also has the Jefferson Health and Fitness Center and the RMU Island Sports Center, all of which can be used by students.
“We try to do things that are visible to the student body,” said Armand Buzzelli, RMU's director of campus recreation. “We'll do, for example, a yoga class out on the front lawn of our student center so that people can see that, get excited and join the classes.”
La Roche and Robert Morris add classes based on student demand. Buzzelli said Zumba classes are especially popular, sometimes drawing as many as 75 students.
Robert Morris began a personal training program with 10 students this fall. The students are learning about anatomy and physiology based on a curriculum designed by the American Council of Exercise. The goal is for students to receive personal training certification over the winter break, and be available to train other students in the spring.
“Should this be successful, we're going to have the same course offered in the spring so it'll be something that keeps sustaining itself through our student body,” Buzzelli said.
Though colleges are trying to help students stay healthy, the students must take advantage of what is offered.
“Once you take that responsibility for yourself, that's when you start to see the changes and stop blaming every other factor for what you've done to your own body,” said Johnson, who tries to make it to the gym for an hour a day.
Jemel Sessoms, 21, a junior broadcast journalism major at Robert Morris, said he watched his father work out, and it became part of his daily regimen. That continued once he began attending RMU.
“The main thing that I had to do was adapt to where I was going to fit in my workouts in college, and how I'm going to fit my meals in as well,” Sessoms said.
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Flag-collection effort gains steam around Pittsburgh area
- Upper St. Clair baseball field to be repaired after mine subsidence
- Borough takes the reins of Dormont Day
- Groveton VFD receives outpouring of support after station fire
- Watershed group coordinating efforts to meet Saw Mill Run deadline
- Bellevue to repair library, add play equipment to park
- Events are Saturday, unless noted. …
- Young achiever: Amelia Porter Bacon
- Summer camps in Pittsburgh area move beyond arts, crafts
- July 4 events sought for Trib roundup