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Fit as a Freshman?

Is health tracking a way to keep the Freshman 15 at bay?

Young adults, especially those pursuing a degree or working at a desk, spend an increasing amount of time sitting. Studies show that college seniors weigh on average 18 more pounds than freshman, and spend 25% less time being active. While the “Freshman 15” is a catchy slogan, fitness trends beyond freshman year are even more frightening. Increasing workloads, financial pressures, and worry for the future are just a few of the many stressors for college students. In addition to directly affecting our health, they require students to spend more time working in a library cubicle and less time being active. 24-hour dining halls, alcohol, and rushed schedules force many students to abandon healthy eating. Luckily, health tracking is a rising trend that incorporates simple devices like FitBit and apps like Apple’s Health. The wearable device can monitor physical activity, while the accompanying website, blog, and accessories help each FitBit user customize their healthy lifestyle.

Nearly 24% of miillenials aged 18-29 currently use fitness tracking apps and 34% of all FitBit users belong to this demographic. An Oklahoma University, Oral Roberts, instituted a rule that all freshmen must wear FitBits and track their physical activity; each student is graded on weekly aerobic activity. The physical education requirements help students achieve a full-rounded education of” mind, body, and spirit.” University administration hopes that health tracking and grading students on their weekly aerobic activity will motivate them to live a healthy lifestyle on their own and help them work towards end-of-semester physical goals. The program requires students to walk 10,000 steps per day while the FitBits automatically submit all data to the administration.

The appeal of health tracking isn’t lost on older generations either. Generation Y makes up about 35% of Fitbit users and Generation X is next at 18%. While Oral Roberts’s program is novel among universities, it is already popular among large companies. Many employers are taking part in population health initiatives by distributing subsidized or discounted FitBits to encourage healthy lifestyles among employees and their families. Fitbit’s Corporate Wellness Program promotes wellness among entire organizations with bulk purchase discounts and a helpful activity index.

Are these programs really helpful?

According to a study led by Carnegie Mellon, 66% of people who lead a healthy lifestyle believe that tracking their activity is helped. Interestingly, 67% of people who don’t lead a healthy lifestyle believe that tracking is not helpful. While FitBits and health-related apps are great resources for everyone, like anything else they work best for those willing to put in effort.

Which activity tracking apps are your favorite? Would you love to see your community take part in a population health initiative?

Let us know in the comments!


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