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You are a psychologist that works at a college, and a freshman student-athlete is concerned about weight gain due to rumors related to the “freshman 15” where freshman students gain minimally 15 pounds the first year of college. What information can you provide them with regarding this rumor? Your discussion should include early adulthood health statistics, early adulthood obesity rates, the importance of exercise for young adults, and nutrition
CLASSMATE: As a society, we are hyper-focused on outward appearances. There are unrealistic body and beauty standards for women (and men). Social media influences, filters that change your appearance, and the ubiquitous use of photoshop by social media influencers and the media portray an image of beauty that is, at best, unattainable for most and, at worst, cause poor self-image and increased rates of depression and anxiety.
Statistics around emerging adults are troubling and cause for concern. They have twice the mortality rates of adolescents, have more chronic disorders, and are more likely to have mental health disorders and be obese. Poor diet, substance abuse, obesity, insufficient reproductive healthcare, and poor use of healthcare facilities worsen in emerging adulthood (Santrock, 2020).
Statistics show that young adults are not getting enough exercise. One study showed that between 12-to-18-year olds and 19-to-26-year old’s, there was a 41% increase in the percentage of people reporting a lack of regular exercise. Proper and adequate exercise is vital for continued health and helps offset the natural signs of aging, such as declining muscle tone and strength, which begins by the age of 30. Experts recommend that young adults get 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise daily, including sustained exercises such as jogging, swimming, or cycling. The intensity should raise the heart rate to a minimum of 60% of your maximum heart rate, which is easily calculated based on age. The benefits of moderate to vigorous exercise are numerous. Regular exercise is correlated with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, not smoking, lowered rates of depression, a healthy body mass index, lower incidences of binge drinking, fewer sex partners, and increased sleep (Santrock, 2020).
Regular exercise helps individuals maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is associated with increased rates of mental health issues, especially depression. There are also links to an increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Statistics from Santrock (2020) highlighted a frightening statistic. In 2016, 39.8% of adults ages 20 and older were considered obese. Rates of obesity vary by ethnicity. At 47% and 46.8%, Latinos and African Americans had the highest rates of obesity, and third were non-Latino whites at 37.6%. Controlling for ethnicity and gender, African American females had the highest rates at 54.8%. Regular exercise and a balanced diet that prioritizes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and adequate water intake can help maintain a healthy weight. Many try restricting calories to manage weight, but the data shows that for many, not only do they regain the weight, but they gain more than they lost. A recent study showed a positive correlation between eating well and grade point average in college students, while the reverse was true for diets heavy in fast foods (Santrock, 2020).
Proper sleep is key to overall health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that 18-to-25-year-olds get seven to nine hours of sleep. However, research from Santrock (2020) showed that a whopping 70% of college students do not regularly get enough sleep, and 50% report daytime sleepiness. Additional studies showed a negative correlation between sleep deprivation, delayed graduation, and a lower grade point average. Staying up all night to study can cause memory distortions and clouded thinking. Reducing screen time in the evenings can positively affect sleep habits and reduce the amount of blue light on the screen using the night shift function on most phones and laptops (Santrock, 2020).
All first-year college students can benefit from a balanced diet, proper and adequate exercise, and adequate sleep. Doing so can positively affect mental, emotional, and physical health and help reduce the likelihood of the dreaded “freshman 15”.

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