Sharp decline in mental health of many first-year university students, even with incentive

Posted on March 14th, 2017

The physical and mental health of many first-year university students takes a sharp decline, even when they are given pedometers to encourage exercise, UBC research has determined.

Assist. Prof. of Health and Exercise Sciences Cristina Caperchione and UBC Okanagan research coordinator Paul Sharp worked with 184 first-year students for a 12-week study to monitor physical activity, quality of life, and psychological well-being. Half the group were given pedometers and asked to record their activity and aim for a goal of 10,000 steps per day, and the other half were not.

“It’s a common belief that university students of this age are in the prime of their life,” says Sharp. “But in reality, many young adults are going through a transitional period whereby they are experiencing greater independence, exploring new worldviews in love and life, and developing new health behaviours.”

Sharp says it is well documented that as they leave the scheduled routine of high school, student’s physical activity levels decline and psychological stress increases when faced with the new challenges surrounding independence and increased academic pressures. Engaging in regular physical activity has been found to help reduce levels of stress and anxiety among students.

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