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Fitness 101

A U of M family doctor gives students and parents food for thought about food and nutrition

When young men and women head off to college, many will think about the excitement and anxiety of being away from home, kick-starting their adult lives and smaller details such as buying books and finding their way around campus.

It’s a safe bet that few will think about facing health care decisions on their own. But with the myriad issues they may face in college, learning about their own health care is one of the most important tasks for college students to take on, says Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., chair of the Department of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“Going to college is a tremendous opportunity and a great time in a young person’s life,” he says. “It’s also a time when students, many of them for the first time, need to really think about their own health and becoming a health care consumer. It’s very important that they should be active and begin to be a little more assertive as they take charge of their health care.”

The “Freshman 15” may be too simplistic, Schwenk says, but it is true that many students experience noticeable weight fluctuations during the first year at college. While a lot of the food offered to college students is high-quality and nutritious, its bounty and easy accessibility can cause problems for people not accustomed to regulating their own food consumption. In other words, be careful at the cafeteria buffet line.

Another problem is the lack of activity. “A lot of students who were very active in high school are less likely to get involved in organized sports in college and intensity of college athletics,” Schwenk says. he suggests that students find new activities — walking across campus with friends, going to the campus gym — to remain active and help keep off extra pounds.

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