Rob Wright, the director of health science at BYU-Idaho, conducted a personal health survey of students at BYU-I to observe how students take care of themselves on a regular basis.
Evidence suggested that the average student at BYU-I is living below their health capacities, according to the study conducted in Spring Semester 2015.
Wright said one of his reasons for conducting the study was to heighten awareness of what can happen if students do not take care of themselves now.
“I’m not very healthy,” said Ashton Fair, a senior studying exercise physiology. “I don’t eat very well. I don’t have the chance to work out very often because I am super busy.”
Wright’s survey was sent out randomly via email to 800 students during Spring Semester 2015. The survey covered students’ personal health including physical activity, nutrition and sleep.
On average, students are getting 1.3-2.3 hours below the recommended amount of sleep that psychologists suggest, according to the study.
Students were exercising about 1.36 days per week. The percentage of students not getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis was 90.5 percent.
Danny Scaife, a sophomore studying health science, said he plans to become a health coach in the future.
“I feel like we are either fit or not active,” Scaife said. “People don’t stay in the middle.”
More than one-third of the nation’s adult population is struggling with obesity, which can be caused by a lack of regular physical activity, proper nutrition and adequate sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Greg Klingler, a health, recreation and human performance professor, said the poor lifestyle choices people make are what lead to obesity and eventually to heart problems.
Klingler, who has had eight years of experience as a physician’s assistant, said students should take measures to prevent future health problems now.
“I am constantly trying to implore students that the choices they make now impact their future health,” Klingler said.
Klingler said there is a disconnect between knowing about health and having the motivation to act.
“In order to have meaningful results, people need to have meaningful experiences,” he said.
Wright said that even when students tend to be mindful of their health, they usually focus on certain areas of health while neglecting others.
“Eating well, getting sleep and exercising are relatively easy to keep up, but, unfortunately, my academics come first,” said Garret Cardinet, a senior studying health psychology. “If I had to choose between taking the time to make a good healthy meal and studying a little harder to get that ‘A,’ I would choose the ‘A’ every time.”
Cardinet said he believes many students would agree that because of the heavy workload that is required of a student at a university, it is not surprising that their health would slip a little.
Wright said the survey suggests to him that students need to balance their lives now or they might begin to develop conditions such as depression, anxiety and obesity. He said these effects might come now or in the future.
“At the time for intervention, prevention has passed,” Klingler said.
Wright said that because of their lifestyle choices many students are at risk of physical and mental health conditions, as well as possible emotional strain.
“A majority of BYU-I on-campus students are well below current recommended levels of physical activity, eating healthy foods, and getting adequate sleep,” Wright said.
Wright, came to conclusion that students are unhealthy after his survey of 800 students on campus.
“The good news is that healthy behaviors can lower your risk for heart disease,” according to the CDC.
After careful assessment Wright developed a semester long experimental program using students from the psychology department to see if there was a possibility of health behavior change.
“We used students from the Psych 435 class,” Wright said.
Wright set up the experiment in a three parts:
Phase one: a pre test survey period where he measured students bodily estimates and health behaviors.
After they were assessed students were asked to follow their personalized regimens for 6 weeks.
Wright said they were monitored and surveyed closely during phase one.
Phase two: A post gathering data period, which was 8 weeks after the pre-test.
After the students were done with the 6 week program they were brought in for close survey and data analysis.
Wright said the changes needed to be highlighted, especially their increase in exercise.
“It increased by 1.1 days,” Wright said.
Wright said that it was important that they follow-up after a considerable time of unmonitored observation to see if the results would stay.
Phase three: The follow-up period, was 6 months after the pre-test.
The data collected showed that students did resume some of their previous health habits in slight amounts. But for the most part students had increased health levels compared to the data at the beginning of the experiment.
Wright said the data suggests that it is not enough to talk or learn about health, but that there needs to be intervention.
He recommends three things to increase student health:
1. Allow students to take part in choosing what health behaviors they would like to change and have them keep track of their progress.
2. Find an outside source of support to hold the student accountable.
3. Research current statistics on health conditions such as obesity.
Greg Klingler, a health, recreation and human performance professor said that the reason he helped develop the American Epidemic course was bridge the gap between learning and action.
The class teaches students how the body reacts to a variety of lifestyle choices and implements experimentation.
Students learn about the current health issues, develop a personal health plan, and report back to their professors.