Student life gets healthy at Orientation Week 2012

29 February 2012

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence will be wearing a pedometer (seen in the bottom right corner) during Orientation Week.
Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence will be wearing a pedometer (seen in the bottom right corner) during Orientation Week.

While many people associate student life with parties and junk food, the University of Sydney is offering its students an alternative with a healthy living focus at this year's Orientation Week.

Grab a free pedometer, fresh fruit (provided by Harris Farm Markets) or recipe book as well as a variety of information on health and nutrition at the Faculty of Health Sciences stall.

The Faculty of Health Sciences hopes that providing these to the students attending Orientation Week will help encourage healthy habits students can carry throughout their University career.

"The change from school to university is a time when young people face many competing interests and activities," said Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence.

"We are very keen for our students to benefit from all the University has to offer, both inside and outside the classroom, to help maintain good physical and mental health."

As part of Orientation Week, the University of Sydney Union will also be providing a free healthy breakfast every morning and there will be other health, sport and fitness events on offer.

Physiotherapy lecturer Dr Martin Mackey says he hopes students use the pedometers as an important exercise motivator.

"Walking has been described as near-perfect exercise - portable, convenient and free, it's a form of exercise that can be incorporated into everyday routine and sustained throughout student and working life.

"With the pedometers we would encourage students to aim for at least 7000, but ideally 10,000 steps or more each day," he said.

Dr Helen O'Connor, a researcher in nutrition and weight management in the Faculty of Health Sciences says she hopes the initiative will encourage students to swap less healthy options for fruit more regularly.

"Many Australians, including young university students, fail to consume the recommended two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day and are sadly unaware of how much they should consume for good health," Dr O'Connor said.

Among western countries, Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity, which leads to other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The 18-to-35 age group shows the fastest increase in body mass index (BMI).

The University seeks to tackle these issues through its new multidisciplinary Charles Perkins Centre, that aims to make a major contribution to health globally by researching solutions to the alarming levels of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in Australia and worldwide.

The Centre will be led by Professor Stephen Simpson, an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences and a scientific adviser to Obesity Australia.

Professor Simpson's research spans locust behaviour to human health and integrates techniques and ideas from humanities, physical, medical and biological systems, including the most extensive study to date into whether calories or nutrient balance is responsible for ageing and longevity.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence will be wearing a pedometer himself during Orientation Week, and will aim to reach 10,000 steps over the course of his day.

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