The health and fitness profiles of sport studies students at a tertiary institution in South Africa.
Introduction The first time most adolescents start to take care of themselves with limited parental support is when they attend university. The watchful guidance of parental support typically wanes and students start to change their habits to suit their lifestyle. This study therefore presents data and related analysis of health and fitness profiles of a selected cohort of students. Aim of the Study: The aim of this study was to determine the health and fitness profiles of Sports Studies students at a tertiary institution in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Methodology: The study was a cross-sectional design of undergraduate students. Three separate year groups (first year, second year and third year) were recruited. A purposive sample of first, (n=70) second (n=90) and third (n=90) year Sport Studies students completed a health questionnaire and a range of physical fitness tests. Descriptive and inferential techniques including the use of correlations and chi square test values were used to analyse data. Results: The sample consisted of 165 students with a mean age of 21.48 years (SD±2.48). First year’s (n = 41) comprised 24.85% of the sample, while second year’s (n = 62) 37.58% and third year’s (n = 62) 37.58%. The sample comprised of 116 males (70.3%) and 49 females (29.7%). According to South African racial classifications the sample consisted of 86.1% of the students who self-identified as Black African, 7.9% Indian, 3.6% Coloured and 2.4% White. The cohort’s mean BMI was 24.09 kg/m², with a general increase from first year (22.65 kg/m²) to second year (24.24 kg/m²) and to third year (24.87 kg/m²). Similarly, there was a mean increase in body weight of 4.09kgs between first and second year, and a mean increase of 3.81kgs from second to third year. In total, there was a mean body weight increase of 7.9kgs from first to third year. The mean body fat was 13.32% for the cohort with first year females at 23.87% and first year males 6.44%. In total, 31.5% males and 4.8% females were overweight or obese. Only 1.8% of the total sample was underweight. There was a mean increase in relative VO₂max in the study cohort (1st years 31.86 ml.kgˉ¹.minˉ¹, 2nd years 33.47 ml.kgˉ¹.minˉ¹ and 3rd years 34.42 ml.kgˉ¹.minˉ¹). The mean VO₂max for the entire sample was 33.43 ml.kgˉ¹.minˉ¹ with male students averaging 36.48 ml.kgˉ¹.minˉ¹ and female students 26.1 ml.kgˉ¹.minˉ¹.. It was reported 78.2% of the sample exercised on a regular basis, with 72.9% being male. Conclusions: Overall results showed that throughout the three years of study, weight and body fat percentage of students increased progressively along with body mass index, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratios. Such increases are of utmost concern and may be directly associated with low physical activity levels and poor dietary habits. A decrease in physical activity, frequency and participation may be the cause of the reported decrease in physical fitness levels. This area of concern may be a major factor related to the general increase in selected anthropometric measurements. Also prevalent was the variance in results between males and females, with males accounting for 72.9% of regular exercisers. The discrepancy in gender and physical activity and fitness levels is of concern.