Physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and dietary profiles of a cohort of university students

  • HA Kazi
  • Y Coopoo
Keywords: Physical activity, smoking, obesity, overweight, body mass index (BMI).


Overweight and obesity among students as a specific sub-group, is an area of concern. Lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking, drinking of alcoholic beverages and poor dietary habits are inextricably linked to overweight and obesity. Little is known about trends in smoking, drinking,
dietary habits and physical activity levels of university students in South Africa. This paper compares the prevalence of overweight, obesity and selected lifestyle habits between a cohort of sport science students and general students in the Faculty of Education at the University of
KwaZulu-Natal located on the Edgewood Campus, South Africa. A total of 259 students, consisting of 116 sport science students and 143 students from the general education group participated in the study. Anthropometric measurements were performed using standard procedures. A structured health and physical activity questionnaire was administered to all
participants. Criteria for overweight and obesity were estimated according to the guidelines of the National Institute of Health (NIH, 1998). The results indicated that 19% of the students were overweight and 6% were obese. Surprisingly, it was observed that the prevalence of overweight
was higher among males (22%) than females (17%), which however was not significant (p=0.32). However, with respect to obesity females (7%) had higher incidence than males (5%). The comparison between sport science and general students showed that 28.3% of male sport
science students were overweight whereas 16% of the other male students were overweight. Seven and half percent of male sport science students were obese while 1.8% of the male general students were obese. Comparison between female sport science students and other female
students showed that 15.9% of female sport science students were overweight compared to 17.5% of the female students. Obesity among general female students (17%) was not significantly higher much higher than female sport science students (11%) (p=0.35). Forty three
percent of the students had a history of cigarette smoking and 22% of the sport science students were smokers as compared to 25% of the general group. With regard to frequency of exercise (3-4 times per week), sports science students (17%) were significantly more active (p=0,00), than
the general student group (10%). . Physical activity levels for most students did not meet the minimum guidelines.

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