Dietary habits and physical activity in students from the Medical University of Silesia in Poland

Wirginia Likus, Daniela Milka, Grzegorz Bajor, Małgorzata Jachacz-Łopata, Beata Dorzak
Roczniki Państwowego Zakładu Higieny 2013, 64 (4): 317-24

BACKGROUND: Some of the major human health problems being confronted in the 21st century are cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It is recognised that having proper dietary habits (nutritional behaviour) and taking moderate physical exercise seem to be the best methods for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

OBJECTIVES: To assess whether the dietary habits and levels of physical activity in first year medical students (freshers) are suitable for preventing cardiovascular disease.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Subjects surveyed were Polish freshers studying medicine, physiotherapy, nursing and midwifery at the Medical University of Silesia in Katowice situated in South Western Poland (n = 239, mean age 19.82 +/- 1.2 years). Assessments, by questionnaire, included daily food intake, frequency of consuming foodstuffs with an adequate nutritional value and evaluating adverse dietary habits. Also considered were students' health, types of physical activity undertaken, or if not, then awareness of the consequences so arising. Statistical analysis was performed by the Chi2 test.

RESULTS: These showed that 25% of students did not eat breakfast, 45.6% snacked in between main meals and 25% ate just before bedtime. Only 29% ate fruit and vegetables daily and 12% never had fish. Energy drinks were consumed by 39% of students daily and also 40% daily drank sweetened beverages. Furthermore, 40% of all subjects rated themselves as physically active, among which the highest were physiotherapy students at 70%. Regular physical activity was not considered essential to health by 5% subjects and 22% of nursing students believed that a lack of exercise, despite eating a healthy diet, did not affect health. The main reasons cited for not performing physical exercise were a lack of time (60%) and energy (26%).

CONCLUSIONS: Despite being aware of the importance that a proper diet and adequate levels of physical activity confers on health, the students of medicine and related disciplines, nevertheless, did not implement theory into practice.

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