So Much for the Freshman 15: Student Bodies Continue to Plump Up Through Senior Year

Filed under: Research Reveals: Teens

The Freshman 15 can be followed by the Senior 16. Credit: Getty Images

The prospect of plumping up during freshman year is a rite of passage, but the calories from nights spent beer drinking, eating Ding Dongs and snarfing late-night calzones continue to add up as college students get chubbier towards their senior year.

A new study reported in HealthNewsDaily.com finds that the Freshman 15 freedom diet of Lucky Charms, Red Bull and Budweiser, along with time spent chilling out on the futon, translates to packed on poundage as seniors head toward graduation.

You see, weight gain doesn't magically stop after the freshman year if students continue their unhealthy habits, including drinking a lot of beer and not exercising, study author Jeanne Johnston, a professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, tells HealthNewsDaily.

"If you go out three nights a week and have four beers each night, there are your 12 beers a week, and that's a lot of extra calories," she says.

If students don't learn to manage their eating and lifestyle habits freshman year, they might have a hard time fitting in physical fitness and healthy eating throughout college, Johnson says in the study, which was presented at the American Public Health Association's 2010 meeting earlier this week.

"We need to evaluate what types of programs we're offering in colleges, both in content and in the timing," Johnston tells HealthNewsDaily. "It appears as if it's critical not only to offer it to the freshmen and sophomores, but we need to make sure that we're offering some sort of programs and support to upperclassmen, to make sure that they're able to maintain their physical activity."

The researchers sent an online survey to 1,672 Indiana University students, asking about their physical activity habits. They found that while freshmen spent an average of 16.5 weeks engaged in some type of exercise, seniors spent only 12 weeks doing so. Specifically, seniors spent less time walking (and more time sitting) than their younger counterparts. This sedentary lifestyle caused students to graduate heavier and with higher BMIs, the study finds.

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