Young adults drop exercise with move to college or university: McMaster researchers

December 15, 2011

Hamilton, ON (Dec. 15, 2011) - Regular exercise tends to steeply decline among youth as they move to university or college, according to a study by researchers at McMaster University.

Researchers found a 24 per cent decrease in physical activity over the 12 years from adolescence to early adulthood. The steepest declines were among young men entering university or college.

The research appears today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study, based on Statistics Canada's National Population Health Survey, followed 683 Canadian adolescents 12 to 15 years old, who were interviewed twice a year until they were 24 to 27 years of age.

While the children were most active, the research suggests that this advantage quickly disappears.

"This is a critical period, as the changes in physical activity during the transition from late adolescence to early adulthood represents the most dramatic declines in physical activity across a person's life," said Matthew Kwan, the principal investigator for the study and a postdoctoral fellow of the Department of Family Medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

"In particular, the transition into post-secondary is a one-time period when individuals become much less active."

Risk estimates suggest 20 per cent of premature deaths could be prevented with regular physical activity. Yet, recent data show 85 per cent of Canadian adults are not active enough to meet the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week.

Public health campaigns encourage Canadians to be more active but the McMaster researchers say little work has been done to prevent the decline in physical activity and they suggest this issue should be made a priority.

For the study, physical activity was measured by estimating the amount of total energy used during leisure activities over a three-month period during the transition from adolescence into early adulthood, including the move to college or university.

The researchers found the rate of decline in physical activity was greater for men than for women, who showed only a modest 1.7 per cent decrease in their overall activity levels; however, the women were less active in high school.

"It may be that girls experience the greatest declines in physical activity earlier in their adolescence," said Kwan.

For comparative purposes, the researchers also examined other health-risk behaviours of smoking and binge drinking. While both increased through adolescence, the researchers found the behaviours began to plateau or decrease in early adulthood; suggesting that individuals may be maturing out of these health-risk behaviours.

Conversely, Kwan added, physical activity decline does not appear to revert itself, but continues on a downward trajectory into adulthood.
-end-
Note to Editors: Links to the research paper and video b-roll are available at http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/media/exercise_young_adult_study/media_20111215.html

McMaster University

Related Physical Activity Articles from Brightsurf:

Physical activity in the morning could be most beneficial against cancer
The time of day when we exercise could affect the risk of cancer due to circadian disruption, according to a new study with about 3,000 Spanish people  

Physical activity and sleep in adults with arthritis
A new study published in Arthritis Care & Research has examined patterns of 24-hour physical activity and sleep among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and knee osteoarthritis.

Regular physical activity seems to enhance cognition in children who need it most
Researchers at the Universities of Tsukuba and Kobe re-analyzed data from three experiments that tested whether physical activity interventions lead to improved cognitive skills in children.

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.

Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.

Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Read More: Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.