Let it go: Girls eat worse and gym less than guys during first year
Scientists say female freshers should work out more – but female students claim findings are ‘fucking rubbish’
A Scottish study has found girls are more inclined to “let go” when they first experience the freedom of university.
Debunking the time-honoured belief that girls are generally more responsible than boys, the research also showed male students tend to live a healthier and more active university life.
However the study’s findings have already raised eyebrows within the student community.
The researchers from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and University of Strathclyde assessed first-year students’ levels of physical activity, diet and psychological factors.
They discovered that girls tended to be more irresponsible, letting their exercise regimes slide after starting university, while boys remained active.
Meanwhile undergraduates who stayed at home had healthier diets and lifestyles.
Dr Chris Easton of UWS, who was involved with the study along with Dr Ann-Marie Knowles from Strathclyde, said it was important students did not ditch good habits learned at home when they fly the nest.
He said: “People tend to think that girls are more responsible at an earlier age but these preliminary findings don’t reflect that.
“In fact, it appears female students are more inclined to be less active during their first year of university, which may have a significant impact on their overall health.
“Beginning university is a significant occasion in a young adult’s life and can be quite an upheaval.
“There are many temptations of the new-found freedom when students arrive on campus.
“For many, it is their first time living away from home and our research shows the ‘letting go’ can ‘go too far’ and have a serious negative impact on their well-being – everything from weight to mood.
“Perhaps not entirely unsurprisingly, the most significant finding was that the living environment is a crucial factor in physical activity levels of the students.”
Dr Knowles, who works at Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences and Health said there was a “clear need” to create advice for students on how they can improve their health.
She said: “This seems particularly relevant for those students who experience campus living in their first year at university.”
Dr Easton said further research was needed to get a full picture of students’ health adding: “Our data is collected from a small sample of students at present.
“We are continuing to collect measurements in a larger sample to identify changes in behaviour from beginning university to the end of first year.
“A further question which needs answered is what happens to young people between leaving secondary education and university and the impact this short, but important time period has on lifestyle choices once they reach university.
“This is something we’d like to examine – where we’d directly measure changes such as body shape, fitness, diet and emotions.”
Female students have been quick to slam the study’s findings.
Cloe Fernandez Barnes, a third-year Exeter, said: “It doesn’t surprise me at all that students “let go” during their first years of university – you go out and drink a lot more than you probably would at home and eat more junk food when you can’t be bothered to cook.
“However, I think it’s fucking rubbish to suggest that girls do so more than guys. Women are just as active in university sports than men and from what I’ve seen guys tend to eat more when they’re hungover.
“I also don’t think it’s particularly fair to refer to exercising less as being “irresponsible”.”
Anna Rhodes, a third-year Liverpool student, also refuted the study’s claims about girls ‘letting themselves go’.
She said: “I don’t think that’s true at all. I went to the gym every day and ate really healthily – and if ever I did let that slip and have the odd Dairy Milk, I’d always make sure I went to the gym and worked it off.
“In first year people are going out all the time – who wants to go to the gym with a massive hangover?
“Whereas in third year I reckon you exercise more – you need to break up your day to take your mind off the stress.
“I don’t feel like it’s as gendered as the study suggests though. Maybe guys work out more, but when they’re hungover, their diets slide a lot worse than girls. I remember guys in my sports team eating whole pizzas and other crap after a big night out.”
The pilot SHAPE (Student Health and Physical Activity Engagement) study involved 32 students, collecting measurements from volunteers during the second semester of their first year.
Data was then gathered using accelerometers, questionnaires and one-to-one interviews over two months.
Research will continue until October with a final report due for publication later this year.