Building Foundations for Future Generations

August 4, 2022

Health behaviors in young adults look different for everyone, whether we’re talking about sleep, physical activity, diet, and even mental health. 2022 is here but it has come with an ongoing cost. Have you ever wondered about the lack of physical activity high schoolers and college students–among many other populations–have had in the last 2 years while learning remotely? The mental lives of some may very well be in shambles.

I wonder how their bodies will fare in the future from this lifestyle. From the quick on-the-go meals to lack of sleep, just to make it to class or practice on time. We also can’t forget our newly-found adults who are just starting off in the world and trying to break generational habits. 

Could finding themselves put strain in places they probably aren’t even thinking about? These are thoughts that cause valid concern.

Low levels of physical activity in young adults have been linked to increased rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and poor mental health, which lead to cardiac events and the need for cardiac rehabilitation in the future. Cardiac rehab is a program that teaches people to change their health behaviors including increasing physical activity, managing psychosocial well-being, and adopting healthy eating patterns.

As the goal is to decrease the need for health-recovery programs like cardiac rehabilitation, let’s explore the journey of health behaviors young adults go through. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends young adult individuals participate in at least 150 min of moderate, or 75 min of vigorous, physical activity (or a combination) per week. In reality, more than half of America's youngest adults – 56 percent of those between ages 18 to 25 – are overweight or obese, according to Johns Hopkins research, published in JAMA. While young adults are generally perceived as healthy, they engage in high rates of specific behaviors known to contribute to weight gain, including eating fast food, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, alcohol use, and sedentary activity. High schoolers can be easily influenced by peers that don’t engage in much exercise, parents may not be able to provide transportation, and a student may be the caretaker of a parent or sibling. Factors like these can play a huge role in the lack of physical activity.

Even if we take the time to consider the transition from high school to college. Many college students have stated that school workload is too high for them to exercise; there may also be feelings of laziness, not having enough time, and other priorities. Some even stated that their mental health not being up-to-par is what does not allow them to exercise, eat healthily, or get an adequate amount of sleep. Let’s not forget about social media being an open door for comparison, which can cause stress. ​​Heavy users of social media have higher blood pressure at night, a risk factor for developing heart disease. As we know, healthier food options often cost more, so to a majority of students, this is not their first choice. Such a way of living could become a “norm”, and as they become an adult, they’ve adopted an unhealthy lifestyle due to previous situational barriers. 

As mentioned before, more than half of our youngest adults are overweight or obese but it doesn’t have to stay like that as you enter adulthood. It’s never too late to start. With the CDC recommendations listed above, it’s safe to say even young adults should be up and moving. Joining a fitness class with a friend or family member, taking a cooking class that offers healthy, low-cost food options to try at home, and overall, realizing that setting the tone even now can prevent or delay many of the health problems that may come with age. As young adults begin to assume responsibility for their own health and well-being, some may need assistance with food-purchasing habits and preparation, stress management, balancing competing demands, and building exercise habits. There are so many amazing programs out there that offer these resources, even virtually. Who knows, maybe one day these resources can be offered from your very own. 

FEATS IN HEARTBEATS  –  the moving analytics blog

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