According to two meta-analyses by researchers at Cambridge University, young adults beginning university studies or starting their first job dedicate less time to physical activity and are more likely to gain weight.
Entering adulthood often means important life transitions: finishing high school, entering higher education or starting out in working life.
These changes are not without consequences for our physical health, warn researchers from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, who have conducted a meta-analysis of 19 observational longitudinal studies drawn from six different digital databases.
The studies analysed concerned adiposity (excess fat stored in the body), diet, and physical activity during these important transitional phases in the lives of young people aged from 15 to 35 years (first employment, studies, having children, etc).
The study was conducted at the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) in Cambridge.
11 fewer minutes of exercise a day for university students
The first observation from the study published in Obesity Reviews: Starting out in the workforce is linked to a reduction in moderate to intense physical activity by an average of seven minutes a day.
This reduction appears to be greater in men than in women (16.4 minutes and 6.7 minutes a day).
This change is even more evident in university students, for whom overall levels of daily physical activity drop by 11.4 minutes.
Several previous studies have shown increased weight gain at the end of high school and again after university studies.
“Children have a relatively protected environment, with healthy food and exercise encouraged within schools, but this evidence suggests that the pressures of university, employment, and childcare drive changes in behaviour which are likely to be bad for long-term health,” said Dr Eleanor Winpenny from CEDAR and the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.
A second study carried out by the same team of researchers and published in Obesity Reviews showed that becoming a parent also strongly increases the likelihood of weight gain, especially for mothers (only one study looked at fathers).
They gain an average of about 1.3 kg more than women without children over a period of five to six years.