College obesity becoming a big issue

College obesity becoming a big issue

Michael Johnson

Contributing Writer

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, according to the World Health Organization, with 1 million people overweight and 300 million clinically obese, and college campuses are not immune to the problem.

The American College Health Association National College Health Assessment II, which was conducted with an Internet survey of VCU students in February of this year, shows how much obesity has taken hold within the college community. Approximately 1,500 students responded out of 5,000 who were sent the survey, and were asked about their weight, nutrition and exercise routines, among other questions.

“I think that these statistics are somewhat alarming,” Katie Vatalaro Hill, assistant director at the Wellness Resource Center, said. “Because we are dealing with such a young population and a third of our students are overweight or obese.”

The results showed that 13.8 percent of those surveyed had a body mass index of above 30, which is classified as obese. The survey also found that 51.6 percent of surveyed students are not meeting the recommendations for moderate-intensity exercise and vigorous-intensity exercise, set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.

The Well offers nutrition counseling for free to students, and ran a weight loss program called “Healthy Fit” this semester in conjunction with Rec Sports, which ran from September through November. The nutrition and exercise program had about 40 people signed up at the start, according to Vatalaro, but lost steam and now has about 20 participants.

“We’ve had, unfortunately, an attrition rate that is a bit disappointing,” Vatalaro said.

A college in Pennsylvania took a more drastic step to combat the problem of obesity last year, when it required students with a BMI of 30 or more to take a “Fitness for Life” health and nutrition class before being able to graduate. In an interview with National Public Radio in November of 2009, James DeBoy, chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Lincoln University, defended the decision.

“We know that obesity and its co-morbidities are going to rob individuals of quality and quantity of life,” DeBoy said on NPR.

“What good is it to go through college, get your bachelor’s degree at Lincoln University, go get your graduate degree, work for five, six, seven years, and all of a sudden, you experience a catastrophic health issue associated with the obesity. That would be a tragedy.”

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