Collegians gain weight but a brief reminder gets them to back on track

Freedom of lifestyle choices often leads to weight gain, but remind the students about staying healthy and they will choose for the better

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Fresh-into-college students need to be reminded about making healthy lifetsyle choice, lest they use the freedom unwisely

College life is often the first taste of an independent life. Freedom to live as you choose! However that freedom may also lead unhealthy lifestyle choices

One negative aspect of the college experience for many college freshmen is weight gain also called the "freshman 15". Researchers say it's no surprise freshmen experience one of the largest weight gains in their lifetimes when they attend college. A new study from the University of Missouri has found that a brief intervention, sometimes as small as 30 minutes, can help students get back on track to a healthy lifestyle. And a healthy lifestyle could potentially benefit them for rest of their lives.

"What we found in our study was that getting personalised feedback about health issues is important," said Matt Martens, associate professor of counselling psychology in the College of Education. "It may not matter how long or short that intervention is; what seems to be important is getting the feedback. These simple interventions can be used at a doctor's office prior to an appointment, possibly while the individual is sitting in the waiting room. The idea behind these methods is to open the conversations, identifying the unhealthy lifestyle decisions and setting goals for the future."

In the this study, participants were asked to complete a 10-minute questionnaire. They were then given a feedback sheet based on their responses, which they discussed with a clinician for approximately 25 to 30 minutes. After a month, those who received the feedback we exercising much more compared to those who did not receive the feedback.

Martens said that healthcare providers could alter these suggestions to fit the specific needs of the patients they attend. If providers can begin to include these intervention strategies, soon their patients could be making better decisions about their lifestyles, Martens said.

Of course, a key positive aspect of this intervention is the low cost associated with this kind of strategy. Potentially not much time, if any, is required between the patient and the healthcare provider, but it could save a lot of money in prevention costs.

"The whole point of all these studies on exercise, interventions and lifestyle decisions is to keep people from getting sick," Martens said. "In the end, it comes down to individuals making good lifestyle decisions, but sometimes it's important for healthcare providers to bring certain decisions that do not contribute to a healthy lifestyle to the attention of the patient."

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