Exercise drops off when teens transition to college, study finds

Posted Dec. 19, 2011, at 5:08 p.m.

Making the transition from adolescence into young adulthood can be challenging, and it could also come with some health risks. A study finds that regular exercise may take a steep drop after high school, especially for young men.

Researchers from McMaster University and the University of Toronto, both in Canada, followed 640 Canadian teens who were age 12 to 15 at the start of the study, interviewing them every two years, from 1994 through 2007. Through those years there was a 24 percent overall drop in physical activity.

The biggest decline was seen among teen boys who went to college (30 percent), while for teen girls going to college it was much lower — 1.7 percent, perhaps because their activity drop-off happens earlier in adolescence. The declines were seen for high school graduates who did or didn’t go onto college following high school.

Binge drinking and smoking were also analyzed, and the study authors found that both behaviors peaked during the teen years and plateaued or dropped off in young adulthood.

While that’s good news, the findings on exercise are more troubling, since being active is important throughout one’s life. “Unlike smoking and binge drinking,” the authors wrote, “it is a behavior that is to be maintained rather than stopped and may not be a behavior that typically disappears with maturity.”

The study was released recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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