Dietary habits and physical exercise among undergraduate students in southeast Nigeria
Introduction: Studies have established that chronic diseases are largely diseases of lifestyle. It is pertinent to ascertain lifestyle habits among young people in order to institute necessary disease prevention strategies to enable them to stay healthy as they grow older. This study aims to assess the dietary habits and physical exercise among undergraduates at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus.
Methods: This study was a descriptive cross-sectional study carried out among 345 undergraduates of the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus using multistage sampling, a self-administered questionnaire and analyzed using SPSS version 22.
Results: The study included 345 students with a mean age of 22.5±3.1years, and [209 (60.6%)] female. The majority (252; 73.0%) had good knowledge of healthy dietary habits. Majority of respondents believed that an unhealthy diet is a very important risk factor for various diseases 303 (87.8%). Dietary practice showed that while only a third of them (110; 31.9%) take breakfast daily, few of them (61; 17.7%) eat 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Higher proportion (83.8%) of student nurses had good knowledge of healthy dietary habits than Medical students (74.8%) and Law students (74.8%), (÷2 =12.009, p=0.002); and among female students compared to male students [80.9% vs 61%, ÷2= 16.457, p=0.000). More student nurses (26.3%) also had an adequate daily intake of fruits and vegetables and least among medical students (3.6%) (÷2=22.710, p=0.000). While the majority believed that regular exercise improves health (295; 86%), only 13 (3.8%) exercise between 3-5 times in a week. Physical exercise was highest among student nurses (13; 14.9%) and least among medical students (4; 3.6%) (÷2=8.456, p=0.015).
Conclusion:Although most of the respondents had good knowledge and attitude about healthy dietary habits and physical exercise, their dietary practices and level of physical activity were poor.
Keywords: Diet, exercise, lifestyle, undergraduates, Nigeria