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Brief Interventions Can Help College Students Return to a Healthy Lifestyle

Update Date: Nov 30, 2012 09:15 AM EST

Most college goers suffer from "Freshman 15," weight gain experienced by those living independently for the first time. This happens basically because they are unable to make right decisions about their diet and exercise, away from home.

According to a new study from the University of Missouri, this weight gain, though not surprising at all, can be handled with the help of brief interventions.

An intervention for as less as 30 minutes could help students get back to following a healthy lifestyle and this could actually make a huge difference to the rest of their lives.

"What we found in our study was that getting personalized feedback about health issues is important," said Matt Martens, associate professor of counseling psychology in the College of Education. "It may not matter how long or short that intervention is; what seems to be important is getting the feedback. These simple interventions can be used at a doctor's office prior to an appointment, possibly while the individual is sitting in the waiting room. The idea behind these methods is to open the conversations, identifying the unhealthy lifestyle decisions and setting goals for the future."

The interventions could be given in different ways. For the current study, participants were asked to complete a 10-minute questionnaire.  Based on their responses, the participants were given feedback, which they discussed with a clinician for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

When the participants were followed up after a month, it was found that those who received interventions reported engaging in significantly more exercise in comparison to those who were not given the intervention.

Martens said that while it may not be possible to provide interventions during every visit, including these interventions in accordance to suit the patient's need could really affect the lifestyle decisions made by patients positively.

Current federal activity guidelines recommend that individuals participate in 75 minutes of vigorous, physical activity per week or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

Marten also pointed out the monetary benefits of these interventions. Interventions are not very time consuming but could save a lot of money in prevention costs.

"The whole point of all these studies on exercise, interventions and lifestyle decisions is to keep people from getting sick," Martens said. "In the end, it comes down to individuals making good lifestyle decisions, but sometimes it's important for healthcare providers to bring certain decisions that do not contribute to a healthy lifestyle to the attention of the patient."

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