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APHA: Students Exercise Less, Gain Weight Through College

Last Updated: November 12, 2010.

College undergraduates report a decline in physical activity along with an increase in sedentary activity and weight from their freshman to senior years, and a game-based intervention may have a positive impact on physical activity levels in college students, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, held from Nov. 6 to 10 in Denver.

FRIDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- College undergraduates report a decline in physical activity along with an increase in sedentary activity and weight from their freshman to senior years, and a game-based intervention may have a positive impact on physical activity levels in college students, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, held from Nov. 6 to 10 in Denver.

Jeanne D. Johnston, Ph.D., of Indiana University in Bloomington, and colleagues analyzed the survey answers of 1,672 undergraduates at a rural Midwestern university. The researchers noted a significant decline in total physical activity from freshman to senior year, along with a significant increase in sitting time and in weight during that time period. Vigorous physical activity declined much more than moderate activity and walking.

In another study, Johnston and colleagues evaluated 58 college freshmen who participated in an eight-week alternate reality game, The Skeleton Chase, which was intended to increase levels of physical activity. The game involved teams of students solving mysteries while walking around campus. Controls were students participating in traditional fitness labs. Daily steps increased significantly in the game group (from 4,892 to 6,966 steps) but decreased in the control group (from 6,545 to 4,798 steps).

"The Skeleton Chase game had a positive and significant impact on daily physical activity and may have altered the declining physical activity pattern seen within college freshmen. However, significant increases in weight were still evident and therefore alternative approaches to addressing both physical activity and nutrition changes must continue to be evaluated," the authors conclude.

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