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Senior 15 May Be More Accurate than Freshman 15

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Any young person who's headed to college hears about the dreaded "Freshman 15"- those extra pounds many students gain when they get into a routine of high-calorie dorm food and less physical activity. Changes have been made in recent years to help students learn to make better food choices and get into a healthy routine so that they can avoid extra weight gain. New research shows the trend is actually moving toward the Senior 15, as more students gain weight as they progress through their academic career.

The study, conducted by Indiana University, surveyed undergraduate students about their exercise and resting habits. Freshman reported walking an average of 684 minutes per week, while seniors walked 436 minutes per week. "One reason was that as the students got older, they used buses to get from one side of the campus to another," according to one of the researchers. The study also found that freshman spent more time exercising and less time sitting. In addition, seniors were also an average of 18 pounds heavier than freshman.

One theory is that older students get more overwhelmed with their studies and more stress, which means less time for physical activity. Freshman who gain weight and don't get a handle on their eating and exercise habits could also continue to gain weight throughout their college years. That's just another reason to establish good habits from the very beginning.

What do you think? Did you (or someone you know) gain weight in college? Was it more significant as a freshman, or as an upperclassman?

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I gained to Freshman/Sophmore 25... I havent walked to class since freshman year I always take the bus too... So it has some truth to it! Report
Have any studies been done on individuals in the same age groups who don't attend college? Is the reduced activity and weight gain a function of age and changing responsibilities not just college activities? Report
I do not know what is typical as far as weight gain in college but I can think of some factors not mentioned in the study:

1) Senior classes may be closer together as seniors are focused on their major's classes, while freshmen probably take classes scattered all over campus as they are taking a wide range of classes from a lot of different departments.
2) Seniors are very likely more stressed. I know that my senior year I was massively stressed out--stressed out because of my heavy course load, stressed out about what I was doing after graduation (in my case, grad school, so I was I applying to grad schools while dealing with finals oh and also while preparing for a study abroad). Stress has been shown to contribute to weight gain.
3) Seniors, because of heavy course loads etc. may not be getting as regular a sleep schedule--I know I was insanely sleep deprived (2-6 hours was pretty typical all semester long) and sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain, as does the soft drinks I consumed to stay awake.
4) Seniors are more likely to live off campus, which may well mean lousy diets of prepackaged meals--high in salt and fat and low in nutritional value. This may also be why they are more likely to take buses. Report
I actually lost weight in college. But I was a member of a performing group and we had to weigh in at tryouts and then every week. If we gained more than 5 lbs we couldn't perform. Of course, that was in the early eighties - it is no longer PC to have weigh ins. Report
Working on a college campus, I have noticed the last couple of years that the upper classmen are now gaining more weight than the freshmen. I have been thinking about talking to a dean about broadening the focus to more than just the freshmen. One of the things that the food service does is no trays and a plate that shows what portions should be. Report
Yep. I just finished first semester of my senior year, and I've gained about 20 lbs. Granted, there were a lot of contributing stress factors: personal illness (pneumonia knocked me on my butt for a month), death in the family, beginning 2 new jobs in addition to 1 regular job, dramatic changes in work envionment, a death on campus ... Add to that 5 classes and 1 volunteer position, and the pounds add up pretty quickly.

But as a freshman, I had 5 classes, no jobs, and no real responsibility. I was diligent about working out every day, and there weren't half as many stress factors. Plus, I had to do a lot more walking, and I lived way closer to the campus gym.

So here I am, trying to un-do first half of senior year.. bleh Report
I lost 15 pounds my freshmen year, but I also lived on the 4th floor (with no elevator) and walked up the steps at least 4 times a day. I gained the 15 pounds my Junior year. The second half of Sophomore year I lived in Hawaii and had to walk 4 blocks just to get to campus and the campus sat on the side of a valley so I was constantly walking uphill. Moved back to Ohio with basically a flat campus (and lived on campus), kept the same eating habits, combine that with a very stressful living situation and I gained weight. I managed to lose the weight by Senior year.

But I agree with what some other people have said. By senior year most people have hit the legal drinking age, so that doesn't help. Also, by then most of their classes are close to each other. Freshmen year I was running around campus, Senior year I had 90% of my classes in the same building. Report
My oldest son gained the Sophmore 15, but then lost it and more Junior year. Now he is a Senior and keeping the weight off.
My youngest son gained the Freshman 15+ because he was side-lined from two shoulder surgeries. He has been cleared and is now getting back in shape and losing weight so that he can play baseball in the Spring. Report
This was definitely true for me! Of course, my school started freshman out by going on a Wilderness Orientation, so after three weeks of hiking through the backcountry at the beginning of freshman year I was probably in the best shape of my life. :)

But my senior year was the most stressed I've ever been. I was doing 40 hour weeks of schoolwork, plus a part time job, plus other commitments I'd been silly enough to think I could do. I barely slept, I didn't cook, I drove instead of walking because it was 5 minutes quicker, and when I did eat I basically didn't chew I ate so fast. Not healthy at all. Report
I'm senior and many of my friends have in fact put on weight since sophomore year; I'm talking 15+ pounds! Report
I know I gained weight during college, but I don't recall when the majority was packed on. Report
I did gain the "freshman 15," but my sophomore year, I was able to drop the weight thanks to the excellent gym/weight room facilities. It wasn't until the year after college that I gained a bunch of weight. Not having the free gym, not walking to class every day, and not having any intramural sports to participate in really took their toll. Report
I gained WAY more than 15 pounds my senior year of college. The culprit? Finally being able to legally drink led to a lot of nights at the bar, late night post-drinking eating and greasy hangover-curing meals. Report
At least at Purdue, freshmen aren't allowed to buy parking permits, thus forcing more walking. Seniors have generally hit the legal drinking age as well... Bars around campuses around the country are filled with upperclassmen, not underclassmen. Report
I was at my healthiest in university. No money, so I walked or biked everywhere, and I never ate fast food because I couldn't afford it! (Although uni was the first time I ate at McDonald's :-( Report
When I started college 20 years ago, I was already overweight at 200 lbs. I gained weight (avg 10 lbs) every year. Report
When I read the headline, "Seniors" I thought they meant people that go back to school when they are in the 'senior' years:)
I went back to school two years ago to get my AA degree, and I am well over 50. I gained about 20 lbs.! Report
I gained the Freshman 15+. By my senior year, however, I was back down to a healthy weight. No longer living in the dorms after my sophomore year, I had to walk further to classes and had to cook for myself, thus making better choices. Report
did not go to college . but starting out as a married lady i gained weight . the first year. Report
My three oldest sons have graduated from college and they didn't gain weight in school, but they did get taller. They did a LOT of rollerblade to get around on campus and during their 4th & 5th years at Columbia U. in NYC they had bikes. There were trams to take them & in really COLD weather they used them since their student high rise was several blocks from the main campus.
My DD is 20 & in college, but she does the P90X work out with Tony Horton & hasn't gained. She wants to minor in Exercise as she loves to work out. Report
OMG, eat less, exercise more, I learned that in college, why can't our children learn the same message. If you go out with your friends, have pizza, and a couple of beers, the next morning, more pushups, more sittups, a couple mile run. Get Real.! Report
I gained weight in my 4th yr of college (I took 3 yrs at the community college then transferred toa 4yr university)- but it was because I got pregnant...didn't gain any extra weight before that/after high school... Report
YES in co-workers who went off to College & are back for the Holidays,Have gained weight. Report
Another reason why seniors could weigh more than freshmen? Alcohol! (and its late-night munchies effects.) Report
In college is where my eating - and my weight - went out of control, at least as far as the scale goes. First reason, beer parties. Second, access to all I could eat at the dorm's dining room. However, I never did have healthy eating habits, even as a kid.

Most of my growing up, my food was very strictly controlled. The first time I had free choice - I was eight - I'd binge. My family had moved away from the person who was sexually abusing me, and NOW I understand eating (weight) was my "protection."

Despite my parents' continued limitations on mealtime food, I still managed to become very obese as a kid, to their chagrin. It wasn't until they had to buy me a woman's size 36 swimsuit, and tie the shoulder straps behind my head, that I realized how big I was.

I thinned out when we moved again, to the country this time, and my "height caught up with my weight," as the saying goes. I was always very physically active, so that wasn't an issue; but there, with the horses and the dogs, I finally found a calm and peace.

All through high school, my weight would bounce around; usually because I'd starve myself day after day, so I could eat junk with my boyfriend, and/or I'd binge in secret late at night. However, my weight was never very much over a healthy norm.

Still, there I was under my parents' shaming eyes, and the freedom of living AWAY at college - combined with the breakup of my engagement just before our planned wedding - let loose every inhibition I had. I even told the boy I had started dating:

"I don't know why, but I feel like I just have to gain weight right now - I can't explain it."

Walking to classes and going to the gym always kept my activity level high. One time I borrowed a bike to make it "easier" - and the odometer read TEN miles after ONE day... I went back to walking! I bounced up and down 25# for several years.

No, it was the emotional pain of being in a marriage full of bullying and loneliness that tipped the scale (literally) up, up, up. The spinal injury - and the final failure of that second marriage, as horrible as it was - let loose another out -of-control gain.

I think it's those major lifestyle changes that can have the most effect; in the past, it was the "Freshman 15," because going to college was probably the first major life change most people faced. Now it's probably going from the freedom at school to a "real" job,

I gained in my last year of college classes, which was by far the most intense. Once the classes were over, I got back to exercise and eating right and lost the weight. Report
This is an interesting blog. I've heard about the freshman 15 but not as a senior. Lol. My particular situation doesn't really apply. I played sports all through high school and was able to keep most of the weight off. I was offered a scholarship to play basketball but not at a school I wanted to attend. Maybe my weight problems would have been better had I continued playing basketball.

I didn't exercise much during college except for tons of walking and riding my bike around campus. During my senior year, I took a nutrition class and started to pay attention to the food and calories I was consuming. I lost about 40 lbs but then I got pregnant. Lol. I ate very healthy food during my pregnancy and ended of weighing less at the end of the school year than I did at the beginning. I only gained about 20 lbs during the pregnancy. Like I said, my situation didn't really apply. Report
My niece has gained 10 pounds and her Mom cannot believe it! Report
Gained 30 pounds and grew 2 inches taller. Report
The Freshman 15 might also be due to the fact that young men and women are still growing at that age. You can't expect most people to be the same weight and size they were in high school. A teenage body is very different from an adult body. Just something to consider. Report
I am a junior in college and I've noticed progressive weight gain throughout the years. It may be due to some medications that I'm taking and also the amount of time I've spent in choir and at work. I live on the fourth floor now and go up and down three flights of stairs a couple times a day and I've still gained weight.... It's frustrating but I think this spark people will help change my mind set. Report
My son whom is a senior in college has actually lost weight and maintained during his college years. He does not have a car in school so his transportation is walking and the bus. He also uses the weight room in the building where he lives and he plays basketball every chance he gets. When he comes home I try fattening him up but he continues with his healthy routine. Report
Interesting Report
Very few upper-division students are encouraged by their advisors to continue physical activity (I know that because of how much flack I get from my advisees AND my colleagues). It's one of my pet topics, and the students who have heeded me report unanimously that they eat, sleep, and study better those terms they are doing some sort of regular physical activity, whether it be organized sport or just taking a daily walk/run. Report
It seems to me that lower division students have classes all over campus, while upper division students tend to have their classes in one area of the campus, so freshmen will have a greater chance to get exercise, especially walking and bike riding, than seniors would. Report
I was already overweight, but I did gain another forty pounds in college. Then again, that was also after I had a major surgery and all I literally did was eat and sleep. Report
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