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Battle of the Bulge

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 28, 1999
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Casey Dexter
Arizona Summer Wildcat

The student Recreation Center offers numerous activities for people looking to get in shape. All students may swim, bkie, lift weights, run and play racquetball in the air-conditioned facility.

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Of all the statistics thrown at incoming University of Arizona freshmen, there is one of particular importance that is often ignored - 75,000 pounds.

That is the amount of weight a collective freshman class will put on during the next ten months, according to a trend commonly known on college campuses as the "freshman 15."

Caused by reduced physical activity, lack of sleep and irregular eating habits, this syndrome can be a serious enemy to incoming students.

Lynne Smiley, the health promotions coordinator for Campus Health Services, said the sizable weight gain is found most frequently with students living in the residence halls.

"We don't see the freshman 15 with people living at home and people living in apartments," Smiley said.

The difficulty of getting to sleep and an increased reliance on fast foods are the two biggest obstacles facing dorm dwellers, she said.

Although many students understand the consequences of eating foods high in fat, salt and sugar, they don't realize the importance of getting enough sleep, Smiley said.

Smiley cited a recent laboratory study illustrating how lack of sleep affects weight gain. In the study, lab rats were deprived of sleep during a sustained period of time. The purpose was to study the reaction of the hypothalamus - a gland in the brain that controls sleep and appetite functions.

When the rats were kept awake for a long period of time, the hypothalamus set off a trigger that caused a noticeable increase in appetite. Humans react in the same manner, causing them to add undesired pounds.

The loud, social environment that often exists in residence halls can cause a student to experience similar results, Smiley said.

"Most of them have trouble sleeping," she said. "Even in the dorms that are quiet, students still procrastinate going to bed."

Besides getting enough sleep - which Smiley said ranges from six to nine hours per night - people should also stay physically active.

"Probably the most important thing students can do is avoiding falling into a sedentary lifestyle," said Sheila Parker, the program director for the UA Health Education Program.

A popular resource for UA students is the Student Recreation Center, 1400 E. Sixth St., which includes a large weight room, exercise bicycles, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, racquetball courts and basketball courts.

Each student is automatically assessed a fee of $25 each semester to cover their membership to the center.

Another problem that often leads to an unhealthy weight gain is a change in eating habits. Instead of having a scheduled time to eat lunch like in high school, students are left to squeeze in a meal at a convenient time.

This leads to more of a reliance on snacking, which radically increases a student's daily calorie intake.