Most students leave university with their preferred degree and a lifetime of experiences; with that said, there is opportunity to deliver students a wealth of lifestyle-based knowledge alongside their studies which will benefit long-term health and wellbeing.
By delivering quality information to the students of today, we have the opportunity to positively influence generations. When young adults are informed of individual nutritional needs, the overwhelming impact foods have on our health and the environmental costs of some processed foods, we can expect the facts, thoughts and values to filter down further into peer groups, younger demographics and even parents or guardians. We have seen this in Food for the Brain studies through the years. (www.foodforthebrain.org)
Informing students and inspiring them to lead a healthy lifestyle can be a challenging task, especially in a university environment, historically associated with processed goods, convenience food and alcohol. However, this trend is changing – 61% of students say they ‘try to eat healthily’ and only 3% admit to ‘not worrying about healthy eating’, according to the Sodexo lifestyle study. Whilst there is still work to be done to encourage all individuals to take charge of their long-term health, we can use the increase of health-conscious students around the UK to hone in on the importance of positive lifestyle change through multiple media platforms and programme initiatives.
Many universities are already delivering this advice to students: the University of Portsmouth offers an informational webpage outlining the basics of healthy living – subjects such as exercise, alcohol and drugs are covered with the aim of ensuring students are staying healthy. Similarly, the University of Bristol has created 10 tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle whilst at university, which can also be applied long term. The University Edinburgh uses an innovative CDC-style case given to all live-in first years with nutritional recipes and engaging lifestyle tips.
Effectively demonstrating the importance of nutrition, exercise and healthy attitudes for students needs to be informative, innovative and interactive. Students specialising in sciences such as dietics, nutrition or biological/sport sciences have the opportunity to lead educational programmes for fellow students.
Using online shared student and staff platforms (such as Uni-Fi) users are able to interact regarding a variety of subjects. Allowing students to operate and drive forum threads based around nutrition, diet and exercise promotes self-responsibility and with the support of staff, allows leading students to demonstrate learnt skills from their courses. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can enable user interactivity, discussion and sharing of ideas to be taken further. Ensuring there are multiple societies, groups and activities offering information and advice to students is also crucial for maximum outreach and diversity of options.
By including multiple media platforms, physical activities and using in-house students to drive forward nutritional initiatives, we can ensure key messages that positively impact students are delivered and in turn, secure the long-term health of the current and next generation to come.