Carianne Cornell1, Derek A. Crawford1, Michael J. Carper1, Allison M. Barry1

1Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas

Research has shown that traditional college students are more physically fit at the beginning of their freshman year compared to their senior year. One factor that can contribute to the decrease in physical activity is the change in structure of their lifestyles. Previous studies have examined cardiovascular health and BMI but have rarely included strength assessments as part of the measure of physical fitness in college students. PURPOSE: The purpose of this data analysis is to examine how fat mass (FM), fat free mass (FFM), handgrip strength and VO2Max change in a college-aged population. METHODS: A five-year cross-sectional design was used to assess a sample of college students (n=3,379; Males=55.4%; BMI: 25.2±5.7; Age:19.4±1.5) in an introductory wellness class. The range in age was 18-25 which were divided into four groups: 1=18-19yrs, 2=20-21yrs, 3=22-23yrs and 4=24-25yrs. Subjects were taken through the following screenings: height, weight, body fat percentage, grip strength, and estimated VO2Max. Body Fat was analyzed using a Tanita (Model). Grip strength was assessed using a handgrip dynamometer. Estimated VO2Max and heart rate recovery were assessed using the Tecumseh sub-maximal step test. One-way ANOVAs were conducted to examine changes in the estimated VO2Max, FFM, FM and handgrip strength. RESULTS: Comparing the whole population across age groups, there was no significant change in FM and estimated VO2Max. However, handgrip strength (F(3,3103)=11.53,P<0.001) and FFM (F(3,1357)=7.58,P<0.001) did change across age groups. Students had a significant increase in handgrip strength from ages 18-19 (38.13 kg) to ages 24-25 (42.89 kg), respectively. Students also had an increase in FFM from ages 18-19 (57.10 kg) to ages 22-23 (61.82kg), respectively. CONCLUSION: The results demonstrated that college-aged students have both and increase and decrease in measures of fitness and body composition. Specifically it should be noted that measures of strength and FFM increase during college years. Alternatively, cardiorespiratory fitness and FM remain stable throughout the collegiate career. Future research should examine methods to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and in turn decrease FM.

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