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Posts Tagged ‘Research Studies’

In case you got buried in school and missed the news, in October the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its first comprehensive Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Without a clear policy for well over a decade, the government finally reviewed the scientific findings about the effect of physical activity on health and published recommendations for adults, children over six, pregnant and postpartum women and persons with disabilities. The guidelines unequivocally underline the health benefits of exercise, citing strong evidence that exercises lowers the risk of early death, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, stroke, high cholesterol, and metabolic disorders. In addition, there is solid evidence that exercise improves chances of weight loss and guards against injuries associated with weak bones. 

Why should college students care about these guidelines? Many of us know our parents are on statins for cholesterol, or that heart disease runs in our families. In our late teens and early twenties, though, we seem to be more concerned with our healthy, present selves. We get yearly physicals, practice safe sex, and maintain a standard of personal hygiene (when not studying for finals). We plot our trajectories, taking certain classes and applying for certain internships, looking ahead to dream jobs, stellar careers, ideal partners, and thrilling bucket lists. This forward thinking is invaluable–really, some classes are intolerable without viewing them as a challenging step on a bigger, better path. The problem arises when a disconnect exists between present habits and the reality of the future. Many of us, myself included, get so wrapped up in the demands of school or the pleasure of our most rewarding activities that we can often de-prioritize physical fitness. 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, and the multitude of organizations who endorsed the guidelines (including the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association, and the American Council on Exercise), to ignore exercise is to ignore our own mortality. The report repeatedly emphasizes that any exercise benefits a person more than remaining sedentary. Living in New York City, hardly any of us can truly stay sedentary, but we do tend to spend more time bent over the computer than engaging in aerobic activity. So, if we spend hours in the library to ensure that eventually we can afford to spend hours reading great works of literature with our lovers on the beaches of Tahiti, shouldn’t we ensure that our health will also be up for it? (more…)

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Your best friend = Your partner in crime/fitness

Your best friend = Your partner in crime/fitness

In the depths of winter, it’s normal to find your favorite jeans a little tighter than usual or to consume more food; in the Northeast, it seems to be part of life. However, you might want to take a look at your close relationships in order to better understand the additional pounds. A study conducted over 30 years (1971 to 2003) and published in 2007 by the National Institute of Health claims that in close relationships where one individual gains weight, the other’s weight is negatively influenced. With over 12,000 people involved, this study examined all kinds of “close relationships” – spouses, siblings, close friends of the same and opposite sex. Their findings indicated that as one half of the pair gained weight, the other did as well.

The only exception, according to this study, was found in siblings of the opposite sex, and to a lesser degree, friends of the opposite sex. The psychological effects of weight gain on each other are obvious: as one person begins abusing food or taking poorer care of himself, the other mirrors this behavior. Does this mean that because your roommate is gaining the freshman 15 that you are doomed to the same fate? Definitely not. However, consider this not-so-pretty figure: Among close same-sex friendships, 71% of friends of the obese became obese themselves. Along the same vein, heterosexual couples tended to be affected by their obese partners 37% of the time.

What does this study mean for the United States? It cements social ties and learned behaviors as main instigators of weight gain, and explains the rapidly rising obesity figures that threaten Americans. Our close relationships exponentially augment the expansion of our waistlines, and it seems this “epidemic” is as close to contagious as mono. However, negligence can no longer be our excuse. Most notably (read: importantly), The Biggest Loser’s seventh season has recently commenced on NBC, but this time, couples have signed on to makeover themselves and their lives. As they struggle together and apart to lose weight, we will be able to see their parallel journeys and how their motivational pairs help them achieve their goals. Hopefully, we will be able to translate this experience into our own lives in order to combat the study’s figures. Find a gym buddy, commit to a healthy lifestyle with your suitemates, and most importantly, take care of each other as you would take care of yourself.


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