Purpose: Participation in medical education has been associated with an increased propensity for poor health in other studies. Information regarding the body composition and physical activity patterns of medical students and how they are affected by the rigors of medical school is lacking in the current literature. We sought to assess changes in body composition and physical activity levels of medical students during the first three years of the curriculum. Methods: Using anthropometric measurements, bioelectrical impedance analysis and a validated physical activity questionnaire, we measured 44 medical students upon matriculation, at the end of the preclinical curriculum (16 months after matriculation) and at the completion of the third year of clinical rotations (40 months after matriculation). Results: The 44 subjects did not exhibit significant changes in weight, body mass index (BMI), or any measures of the various measures of body composition. However, for the 24 female subjects a negative correlation was found between the first energy expenditure measurement and the percent total body fat (p= 0.02, r= -0.49). There was also a negative relationship in the females between the second energy expenditure measurement and the percent total body fat (p= 0.00, r= -0.63). Finally, lower percent TBF was correlated with higher energy expenditure at the third measurement (p= 0.40, r = -0.43). For male subjects, there was no significant correlation between weight, BMI or percent TBF and energy expenditure. Conclusion: Our results indicate that medical school may not necessarily be as detrimental to the health and activity profiles of medical students as is popularly believed. These findings are contradictory to most studies of medical student health and address the need for further prospective studies of health in this population. Lower percent TBF in female subjects was consistently correlated with higher self-reported energy expenditure. This finding was expected, as sedentary lifestyles are associated with overweight and obesity.
Livingstone, Kristen; Simon Livingstone; Robert Glew; and Dorothy VanderJagt. "Body Composition Changes among Medical Students Following Matriculation." (2008). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/ume-research-papers/20