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How fat is USF?

Over the years USF has been called a varitety of things, both good and bad. It’s been said that USF is well on its way to becoming a Top-50 research university and boasts one of the highest transfer student rates in the country. One thing USF hasn’t been called in the past is fat — until now.

Men’s Fitness magazine recently released its “Top 20 Fittest and Fattest Universities.” USF showed up at No. 10 on the fattest list. Schools were graded on five criteria: student bodies, exercise, bad habits, other lifestyle choices and culture of fitness. USF scored highest in bad habits and other lifestyle choices with a “B.”

The Bulls scored their lowest grade in culture of fitness with a “D”-minus.

Men’s Fitness claims, “We surveyed nearly 10,000 students from more than 660 of the nation’s top colleges and universities, asking them everything from the personal to their thoughts on the big-picture issues.”

Based on that information, out of the nearly 10,000 students interviewed, only 15 students were surveyed per school. The survey’s findings are based on the answers of 15 people across an entire campus of more than 32,000. Not even half of 1 percent of USF’s students were interviewed. Many administrators on the USF campus question the survey’s scientific value.

“I think defining fitness for the average student is a difficult task,” Director of Campus Recreation Eric Hunter said.

“People see so many stereotypes and misconceptions either through television or print that give a false impression of the definition of fitness. Through the efforts of the Campus Recreation department, Student Health Services and other departments, students can learn the true definitions of fitness, and these departments will assist them in reaching their own personal physical fitness goals.”

USF has many options available on campus to exercise and plan a healthy diet. At Student Health Services, Kimberly May works as USF’s primary dietitian. According to her, nearly 50 percent of the student population comes for dietary advice. Because of the heightened interest in diet and weight loss, May and her staff compiled a program to assist students called LEARN.

“In response to increasing requests for weight loss, I began a weight management (weight loss) program for students last semester,” May said. “The program is the LEARN Program for Weight Management. LEARN stands for Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships and Nutrition. This 10-week program teaches students how to lose weight healthfully and keep it off. The program will begin again in early October 2005. Enrollment is already complete.”

The Campus Recreation Center, located adjacent to the Sun Dome, is a service that is free to students. The Rec. Center has indoor basketball courts, racquetball courts and a variety of machines and free weights to accommodate students who take advantage of the services. There is also a variety of intramural sports available to keep students active.

Student reactions to the results of the survey varied. Sophomore Brandon Porter uses the Rec Center four to five times a week and is active in intramural sports.

“I think the only thing that is wrong with the Rec. Center is the hours,” Porter said. “I think it should be open for 24 hours. I think the culture of fitness on campus is pretty average. As far as people getting involved and being active, I think we’re in the middle.”

Senior Kirsten Ritchie believes that USF is very active. She also spends five days at the gym per week but does not participate in intramural sports.

“USF is doing a good job of getting their message out for what they have to offer,” Ritchie said.Senior Krysteena Wakefield graded USF at a “C” for Culture of Fitness. Wakefield does not visit the Rec. Center frequently, but she took a swing dancing class there.

“I don’t think USF is active at all,” Wakefield said. “I ride a bike to school, and it’s not really set up for people to ride bikes on campus. They don’t put out opportunities to be active. We have the Rec. Center, but I didn’t even know it was here until my second semester because I had a class there.”

Men’s Fitness looked at the average weight loss and gains and average height and weight when determining the Student Bodies category. USF Fitness Coordinator Anne Friesel believes this wasn’t the most accurate way to gauge the category.

“Height and weight are not good indicators of fitness level nor obesity levels,” Friesel said. “A more accurate and appropriate way of measuring fitness is through a body composition test. This will determine what part of their body weight is fat and what part is lean tissue. It is well known that it is not how much you weigh but how much of that weight is fat that puts you at risk for disease. If they did not measure body composition in this study, how can they determine what universities are actually the fattest?”

USF was the only school in Florida to show up in the rankings. No other school in the state of Florida appeared in the fit or fat category. The school that is considered to be the fattest based on the information provided is the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Brigham Young University ranked as the fittest school in the United States.

As for the future of fitness at USF, Campus Recreation is due for expansion in 2008 according the USF Master Plans. Student Affairs will allocate all funding for the Rec. Center if approved.