One university student out of 4 leads a sedentary lifestyle: how to improve your habits

Many college students lead improper lifestyles: 24% smoke, while more than 1 in 4 are not involved in any type of physical activity. An unhealthy diet and failure to pay attention to one’s reproductive health complete the picture. A survey on the behavior of college students was conducted by Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome and the Italian National Institute of Health.

“ATM Youth Health” is the name of the survey, which was conducted in collaboration with 8,516 students of 10 universities from all over the Italian territory, all individuals between the ages of 18 and 30. The results speak for themselves: university lifestyles affect many individuals, especially boys.  

A topic that deserves further evaluation by undergraduates is Italian food. Only 44% of the sample consume at least one serving of fruit per day and even less are those who consume at least two servings of vegetables: about 22.5%.  At the table, the girls outweigh the boys: almost half reach the recommended daily consumption of fruit by 33.8% in comparison to boys. Still, only about 8.5% of university students consume 5 meals a day and more than 1 in 3 skip breakfast every morning.

From the table to the gym, this situation does not improve: 25.8% of college students are not involved in any physical activity and here the boys prevail over the girls: 16.2% are considered “lazy” against 30.5% who are inactive.

Alcohol, smoking and reproductive health

24% of college students smoke and more than 4 out of 10 drink beer, wine or liquor at least once a week. Finally, the survey found that girls are a bit distracted when it comes to reproductive health: 30.9% of girls have never undergone a gynecological examination.

“This data is consistent with other studies that have documented a decline in lifestyle followed by the younger generations,” says Professor Daniela Lucini, Head of the Excercise Medicine Unit at Humanitas Hospital. “The thing that is most striking is that college students are involved and they should be more aware than the average peers. Among them, there are definitely students of faculties related in various ways to the world of health.” 

Why such a tendency to follow improper lifestyles?

“The reasons are several: for example, a sedentary lifestyle can be blamed by the lack of free time due to the required commitment of studying.  Unfortunately, eating is often related to having lunch in a hurry and eating fast food and snacks in the evening, which is wrong.” 

How can these imbalanced lifestyles be corrected?

Here is Professor Lucini’s advice:  

  • Inform yourself! “Firstly, it is advised to find out about all these aspects, from good nutrition to exercise, their benefits and what damage can result from improper behavior.”
  • Less “coffee breaks” and sandwiches: “Even outside the home, you can eat in a more healthy way just by avoiding sweet and savory snacks at vending machines or sandwiches at the bar and instead choose a salad or a plate of lean meat with vegetables, for example.”
  • Just get organized and find the right time: “We can organize the time for studying and find an hour to exercise. Alternatively, never forget that you can always fight against a sedentary lifestyle even outside gyms or pools. Why not walk by foot instead of taking the subway and avoid mobile activities?”
  • Track vices: “Stop smoking and drink very little alcohol, especially if you go out in the evening and if you have a drinking problem.”

The survey declared 77.1% of the sample in good or excellent health, however, this is not enough: “We can simultaneously have a healthy amount of iron in the body and follow bad habits, which is especially true in younger individuals. For this reason, you should consult with a doctor for a general checkup and specialists such as a gynecologist. He who is healthy can be even healthier if he follows a proper lifestyle, otherwise, tomorrow might be too late to reverse the course” says Professor Lucini. 


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.