Advising Students to be Healthy

By Dr. Robert Topp, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, College of Nursing – Young adults enrolled in undergraduate studies are at a crucial moment in their development of personal health habits.  College is a time for young people to try different lifestyle habits once they are no longer under the watchful eye of their parents, high school coaches and teachers.  These students must learn how to juggle academic challenges as well as make decisions about when to exercise and how much is needed, what to eat and  how much sleep is essential for them to be productive the next day.   Physical activity and nutritional habits adopted while attending college commonly persist throughout adulthood.

Unfortunately, many college students tend to develop bad habits, poor diets, and participate in activities which often result in weight gain, sleep deprivation,  and falling behind in class.  There is evidence that the average college freshman gains between 7.5 to 18.2 lbs., commonly known as the “freshman fifteen”, during their first year enrolled in college.  This observation combined with the fact that 50% of incoming college freshman are overweight or obese means that most students graduating from the university are less healthy compared to when they entered.  Being overweight and then gaining additional pounds after entering college is associated with poor academic performance with low levels of physical activity and poor nutritional habits increasing the probability of dropping out of college or prolonging the duration of time until graduation.  In addition to weight gain, these poor life style choices can put students at risk for depression, social isolation, and chronic health problems.

In response to this problem an interdisciplinary team of faculty has developed an elective course to be offered in the fall of 2012 titled “Special Topics in Health: Personal Health and Fitness ” (HEAL: 1931 Section: 103).  This course will teach students how to self-manage their personal fitness through appropriate nutritional intake and physical activity.  Students enrolled in this course will be paired with upper division Exercise Physiology students (fitness interns) who will collaborate with the instructor in personalizing the in-class content to develop healthy nutritional intake and a physical activity program for the student.   Following completion of this course the student will be prepared to pursue a healthier lifestyle by making informed decisions regarding their own physical activity and nutritional intake.

University faculty and advisors are the first line to identify college students who may benefit from this course.  If you know of a student who would be interested in this course please share this flier with them.

For more information contact Dr. Robert Topp at

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