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fitness level of average college students?


MyThreeSons
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I'm curious to hear what y'all think:

 

You have a bunch of college students (17yo to 21yo, about evenly distributed male and female), and one day you tell them you are taking them on a hike. They have not trained or otherwise prepared for this -- you just announce it and take them there. The hike turns out to be 13.5 miles, somewhat but not super strenuous, in the mountains, moderate temperature and humidity. 

 

What percentage of students do you think will have some difficulty with this task? (for example, limping, experiencing pain, getting rather winded, or falling behind the group)  Do you expect that all will be able to complete the hike? Would you be surprised if some students are "feeling it" the next day?

 

ETA: Oops -- I didn't think to mention that they did have appropriate shoes (sneakers or hiking shoes) and comfortable clothing. 

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> 90% of the students especially if they aren't allowed to change to attire suitable for hiking.

 

I would not want to hike in my one inch high heels ankle boots but I can walk the 13.5 miles on city sidewalks in those. I would also need my energy bars for hikes since I was a kid else I get a "sugar low".

 

ETA:

I did those last minute kind of group hikes in college. We had more than 20 of us, long range walkie talkies and a first aid kit per group. Someone fell and sprain her ankle during one of the hikes.

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Maybe quite a few of them.  Things that might contribute to soreness or other issues include hiking that far in tennis shoes, not having enough water or decent snacks, and elevation might bother some people.  What pace was maintained? 

 

I'm in pretty good shape for a girl my age but when I hike with my sister it bothers me because I don't have boots (she lives 900 miles away so I

m not buying boots to hike twice a year), and elevation really bothers me. I can walk forever on flat ground but uneven ground and ascending in elevation makes me tired.  

 

I can ride my bike 50 miles in a day but hiking 13.5 up a mountain would wipe me out. Doesn't necessarily mean I'm in bad shape. I'd expect the same might be true of a lot of college age kids. 

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I'd think 4 out of 5 would have some problem with it, and the one that said they didn't might be lying. ;) With no training, no chance to wear decent hiking gear, a mountainous trail, etc, in combination with kids who generally are students, not athletes... realistically, the only ones who would be able to do that with no problems at the drop of a hat will be those who are specifically making sure to take the time to do endurance training, which isn't a whole lot of people. I don't imagine most people of ANY age would appreciate having something like sprung on them without no warning. TBH, unless the person organizing it was aware of the full health history of everyone on the trip, I'd think it could actually potentially be quite dangerous. One kid with diabetes, asthma, ANY sort of physical complication, and there could be disastrous consequences.

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I would agree that most would have issue with it, exception being those who are currently in some sort of training program. I walk a lot at college, but much of college life is sedentary. Sitting in class, using lots of brain power to study leaves you exhausted but not really physically training. 13 miles is quite a hike if you're not used to it. I would think it would be prudent to do shorter hikes to prepare for 13 mile one. 

 

I'm curious about the story behind this question. 

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I'm curious to hear what y'all think:

 

You have a bunch of college students (17yo to 21yo, about evenly distributed male and female), and one day you tell them you are taking them on a hike. They have not trained or otherwise prepared for this -- you just announce it and take them there. The hike turns out to be 13.5 miles, somewhat but not super strenuous, in the mountains, moderate temperature and humidity.

 

What percentage of students do you think will have some difficulty with this task? (for example, limping, experiencing pain, getting rather winded, or falling behind the group) Do you expect that all will be able to complete the hike? Would you be surprised if some students are "feeling it" the next day?

 

ETA: Oops -- I didn't think to mention that they did have appropriate shoes (sneakers or hiking shoes) and comfortable clothing.

I think your definition of "somewhat but not super strenuous" may not match my definition, because any 13.5 mile hike in the mountains sounds pretty darned strenuous to me, unless all of the kids were experienced hikers and very fit.

 

I would never subject a group of non-athletes to a surprise 13.5 mile mountain hike. Honestly, it seems like an unreasonable and irresponsible thing to do.

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At least if this is the US, nearly all of them will find this difficult. I would guess half of them will find it pretty unbearable. We hike from time to time, but 13 miles would be definitely harder than average student's common level of endurance.

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I would have been fine at that age, and I guess I am in the average range for folks in my region.  But it might depend partly on the backgrounds of the students.  I remember young guys from India bragging to me that they walked a lot, even up to a mile, back home!  Like wow, how impressive!  Um....

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I'm curious to hear what y'all think:

 

You have a bunch of college students (17yo to 21yo, about evenly distributed male and female), and one day you tell them you are taking them on a hike. They have not trained or otherwise prepared for this -- you just announce it and take them there. The hike turns out to be 13.5 miles, somewhat but not super strenuous, in the mountains, moderate temperature and humidity. 

 

What percentage of students do you think will have some difficulty with this task? (for example, limping, experiencing pain, getting rather winded, or falling behind the group)  Do you expect that all will be able to complete the hike? Would you be surprised if some students are "feeling it" the next day?

 

ETA: Oops -- I didn't think to mention that they did have appropriate shoes (sneakers or hiking shoes) and comfortable clothing. 

 

Based on my knowledge of high school students... a lot. 50% of them. 13 miles is a long hike, a full day. But we know pretty sporty kids. I take my small children on 5 mile hikes but there are kids around here who think that mild jogging for 45 minutes of soccer is a really, really strenuous day.

 

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A 13.5 mile "somewhat strenuous" mountain hike would likely be difficult for most and have all of them feeling it some the next day. And I include my own college kid in that. He runs most days and lifts weights three times a week. He's solidly muscular with a low body fat percentage. But a 13.5 mile hike in the mountains is a different type of activity than what he's used to, and that makes a difference.

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Yeah, I'm guessing most of them would have trouble with that unless this happens to be a group the leader knows is in good shape and used to hiking.

 

My 17-year-old son is a dancer. He's in good health and the only weight on him is in the form of muscle. He can dance for hours and lift girls who weigh as much as or more than he does. But he has never done that kind of hike. And if such a thing were sprung on him without preparation, he would find it extremely draining. I'm sure he'd complete the hike, if there were some reason to do so, but he would be tired and sore and would definitely feel it.

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13.5 miles is a really long hike, especially on uneven ground and I assume somewhat steep inclines since you are talking mountains.  I would expect at least 75% to have some issue with it ranging from being sore the next day to not being able to finish it.  Actually just being sore would probably be higher than 75%

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A 13.5 mile "somewhat strenuous" mountain hike would likely be difficult for most and have all of them feeling it some the next day. And I include my own college kid in that. He runs most days and lifts weights three times a week. He's solidly muscular with a low body fat percentage. But a 13.5 mile hike in the mountains is a different type of activity than what he's used to, and that makes a difference.

 

+1

High school athletes who transition from one sport to another often go through some different aches as they adjust.  If someone isn't used to hiking in the mountains then I would expect a 13.5 mile hike to have at least some impact on them.

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The hike turns out to be 13.5 miles, somewhat but not super strenuous, in the mountains, moderate temperature and humidity. 

 

ETA: Oops -- I didn't think to mention that they did have appropriate shoes (sneakers or hiking shoes) and comfortable clothing. 

 

So, a 13.5 mile hike in the mountains, is what, about 7 hours, not counting stops?  And I wouldn't necessarily say that sneakers without ankle support are appropriate footwear for mountain hiking.

 

So, I'd say almost all of the students would be "feeling it" the next day, and a good percentage would be unable to keep up before the end of the hike.

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I was in fantastic shape in college and did anywhere from three to six hours of MMA a day, and I know I would have felt that the next day. That's a long hike for anyone, especially in the mountains. I wouldn't be at all surprised if most of the kids couldn't make it, and I certainly wouldn't think any less of them for it. Honestly, I think anyone who says that hike would be no problem for them is probably full of it.

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I'm curious to hear what y'all think:

 

You have a bunch of college students (17yo to 21yo, about evenly distributed male and female), and one day you tell them you are taking them on a hike. They have not trained or otherwise prepared for this -- you just announce it and take them therve. The hike turns out to be 13.5 miles, somewhat but not super strenuous, in the mountains, moderate temperature and humidity.

 

What percentage of students do you think will have some difficulty with this task? (for example, limping, experiencing pain, getting rather winded, or falling behind the group) Do you expect that all will be able to complete the hike? Would you be surprised if some students are "feeling it" the next day?

 

ETA: Oops -- I didn't think to mention that they did have appropriate shoes (sneakers or hiking shoes) and comfortable clothing.

That sounds crazy to spring a 13.5 mile hike on a group of people unnannounced. Irresponsible. As people up thread have said: asthma issues, blood sugar issues, not to mention that 13.5 miles is a loooooong hike and anyone who isn't in peak condition would struggle with it. Think of all the pulled muscles and headaches and blisters that could happen if someone isn't completely prepared for that level of activity.

 

If this is something that hasn't happened yet, I would advise against doing it.

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I just ran this question past my husband, who (for a little context) teaches Crossfit for fun and does endurance mountain biking. His guess was  that depending on if all the kids were used to mountain elevation or not, anywhere from 75 - 95% would have difficulty. Even kids who are fit in college usually get that way with short, intense training; students simply don't have time to regularly go for hikes of that length, so even the most in shape kids generally lack that sort of endurance. He pointed out that the distance is essentially a surprise half marathon through the mountains. Then he asked me why I was asking him such strange questions at midnight, lol. Just tossing in his opinion since I thought his answer might be different from mine, given that he generally has much higher expectations of people physically than I do.

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The only people who would not find that tiring in my varsity days would be my friends who competes in cross country races and triathlon, and also loves hiking in places like Nepal. They dream about scaling Mt. Everest.

 

I was usually the first aid crew and I knew how to operate a ham radio (girl scouts training) if I have to.

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I think anyone who isn't currently training and prepared for a 10+ mile hike would feel it the next day even if they are very fit. I hope this isn't a real example. It's a terrible idea. Most of them won't own decent hiking shoes that are broken in.

 

When I was in that age range I was in the Army and in very good shape. You still feel the hikes and longer runs the next day. I'm pretty sure you're supposed to 'feel' it.

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13.5 miles in the mountains? probably 99.9%. Even those in great shape are probably going to get blisters if this isn't something they are used to doing. Whose good idea was this?

 

Btw, this isn't a matter of fitness level. This is a question of whether or not they regularly take extremely long hikes. You do realize you are talking about at least 7 hours of hiking? Most likely more like 9 hours.

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When I was 16 I did a 15-mile hike carrying a 20-lb backpack.  At 18 I walked 12+ miles to work one morning (followed by a 14-hour workday standing on my feet).  In the latter case I was not specially dressed, no water bottle or anything.  In neither case did I do any conditioning or similar prep.  If anything, I felt great afterwards / next day.  (And I actually had back problems when I was a young adult.)  Even at my present old age I could easily hike 5 miles or so without a fuss and feel fine the next day.

 

I guess I'm surprised at some of the responses.  I'm sure there would be many young people who would find 13.5 miles a challenge, even impossible; but I think there would be many who would be just fine.  As for asthma etc., I would hope that a person of college age could speak up and get permission to opt out.

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Note: the Bataam death march had those poor people walk a distance of about 14 miles a day for 6 days and it's gone down in history as well...a death march.

 

Ok, I'm being flippant about a very serious incident in history, but when I read the 13.5 mile hike through the mountains, it was the first thing to pop into my head. It just sounds so grueling unless someone has built up to that level of endurance.

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When I was 20 years old, I had to run full speed up a very, very steep hill cold, without warming up. (Long story, but a little girl had gone missing in my neighborhood and I caught sight of her at the top of a hill and took off as fast as I could go to reach her.)

 

I must have ripped apart my leg muscles or something, because for the next week I could barely walk. Really, I had to shuffle along the hallway holding on to the wall because of the razor sharp pain in my legs with each step.

 

I had thought I was in shape just because I was young and was thin and ate healthy. I was absolutely shocked at how much I wasn't in shape. It was sobering.

 

And I've made a point to exercise regularly until this year (I've slacked off this year) so that I would never be caught unaware again and suffer that sort of pain again if I ever needed to run for some reason.

 

So, as a real answer (and not the bataam death march answer I gave above), I would think that some people would be fine with the march, albeit sore the next day, if they regularly, deliberately do physical things. But I would think a number of them would be like I was and assume their youth gives them strength, but they would possibly be sadly mistaken and suffer greatly from soreness during the hike and afterwards.

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My high school and college kids and their friends could all do this- no problem, and have a blast.  My 13 and 16 yo just did 4 days of this carrying 35 pound packs with no pre-hiking, hiking specific, training.  But- they would feel it the next day.  And enjoy comparing their pain.

 

But all my kids run and many are into martial arts.  My college age dd and her friends run and weight lift several times a week plus their campus is huge with lots of walking while lugging backpacks everywhere.

 

I know my sisters children and their friends, all of whom are in that age bracket, could and do often do stuff like that- but they live in the mountains.  But perhaps we are a strange subset of really active people that tend to hang out with other really active and people?  Neither my husband nor I at 48 and 50 would have a problem at with it either.  Though we might feel a bit sore the next day.

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My daughters (12 and 13) go on frequent hikes in the mountains. I don't think they've done more than 10 miles yet, but I would never send them on more than a mile or two "stroll" without broken in hiking boots.

They're not in any special athletic condition, but likely more active than the average college student.  They've come home from 8 mile hikes a little bit sore and a lot bit tired.

 

ETA:  Our peaks are about 2,000', so I would expect much more difficulty at 3,000' and a little less at 1,000'.

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For reference: a similar trip was organised at the university where I work.  It was advised that only those who could run for a mile without stopping should go on the trip.  There was no testing, but they had to sign a statement to that effect.

 

Hm.  I can't run.  Never could.  But I could walk several miles no problem. 

 

Doesn't seem like a fair test.

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I think blisters would be a huge problem. A long hike like that takes a little preperation. I was in great shape in college, but I just walked/jogged about an hour a day. My son could do it easily. My girls are in better shape because of ballet, but I do not know if that means they could hike 13.5 without hurting.

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I have no idea as to the percentages who may be fine with it (I suspect it varies regionally), but just as another thing to consider:

 

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm

 

21% of 12-19yos are obese (and that doesn't even include the ones that are overweight). Now, I realize that some obese people can be in shape (especially the ones for which the BMI is messed up because of muscle mass), but realistically, most aren't.

 

http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2007/jul/06_0142.htm

 

"nearly 6 of 10 [college] students participate fewer than 3 days per week in vigorous-intensity (20 minutes or more) or moderate-intensity (30 minutes or more) physical activity."

 

So, 6 out of 10 probably don't stand much of a chance at all, and then I'm not sure about the other 4/10, many of who may exercise about 30 min 3x/week and no more than that,

 

I think there is a big difference between being able to complete the hike without too many issues and not even being sore the next day. I think very few would not even be sore the next day.

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Also, it's not really fun for anyone... the kids who aren't able to handle it (because they're in pain), nor the kids who can handle it (because they have to listen to the other kids whining and complaining for probably most of the hike, which would turn an otherwise fun hike into an annoyance).

 

I also think that if you announce a 13.5 mile mountain hike, you can expect to have kids sign up who think they can handle it but can't.

 

Anyway, time to announce what sparked this question!

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Walking for miles every day on and around campus is not at all the same as hiking in the mountains. All of my mountain hiking experience has been in Colorado where the high altitude was also a factor, so I'm sure that affects my perspective. But the idea of taking a group of people with different and unknown fitness levels on an unplanned 13-mile hike seems completely asinine. I hope they all had enough water, sun protection, etc.

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I love to hike; it's my favorite thing to do in the world. And the hiking I do is usually at higher elevations, because I'm usually starting at 6000-7000 feet and going to 9-10,000 feet or sometimes even higher. But even if a hike has very little elevation gain, 13.5 miles is a long way for most people. I'm also a distance runner and if I were to hike 13.5 miles my feet and legs would still be sore at the end of the day. The next day I would be okay, but I spend a lot of time on my feet throughout the week and do a lot in the way of exercise, so my muscles are used to it, I guess.

 

I would never "make" anyone go on any kind of hike. (I have been known to beg and/or bribe my kids to go with me, though. Ha ha!) And when I do go hiking with someone else, I always let them set the pace. If I am doing something I enjoy with a person I like, I want their time to be enjoyable too. And when I ask someone to go with me and they agree, I give them a choice of where to go, telling them distance and how much "steep" we're going to encounter.

 

I am in better shape now, at 48, then I was at 19-21, because I train a whole lot harder now. I used to hike and ride my bike back then, but now I do all sorts of things and there is a lot more intensity in what I do.

 

So to answer your question, I think it would be unrealistic to expect anybody to be able to go on an impromptu long hike like that, even if it were just a flat walk down the road.

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I believe the vast majority of them would have severe problems with a hike that long.  When I was in Jr. High and High School, we had mandatory Phys Ed classes, 5 days a week. Looking back, I believe those were the most important courses I took, although I wasn't enthusiastic and have never considered myself to be athletic or an athlete.  I might be able to complete the 13.5 miles, but it would be very tough and would require quite a few hours.

 

A huge percentage of applicants who try to enlist in the U.S. Military now are unfit and are rejected.. Obese, out of shape, etc., etc. Probably a lot of your average college students are in the same bad shape...

 

DD has just begun a course for P.E., Foundations for Personal Fitness that uses this textbook: 

  • Corbin, C. B., and Lindsey, R. (2005). Fitness for Life (updated 5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
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"Mountain" hiking needs to be defined here as does "somewhat but not super strenuous".  For example, I live at sea level.  When I went to Yosemite, I needed a day to get accustom to being at a higher elevation.

 

Further, some of our east coast mountains are basically hills.  Even then, the hiking can be moderately strenuous depending on the gradient and condition of the trail.

 

But then again it might be a more comfortable walk in the woods for all we know.

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But then again it might be a more comfortable walk in the woods for all we know.

 

That does make a big difference.  The hike that I referenced at the university here was essentially straight up a mountain, then a walk along a ridge, then straight down the other side.  I'm a fair walker but I couldn't have done it comfortably.  On the other hand, I could walk for five or six hours up and down a valley (so long as it wasn't high altitude, which isn't something we deal with in Scotland!).

 

L

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For the herpetology grad students, most would be OK if they knew it was coming, had their boots and gear, etc (hiking 10+ miles in a day to collect samples really isn't all that uncommon)but even a 1mile hike in to collect samples is announced and prepared. Part of that is because usually you're going off trail, so it tends to be rather difficult, part of that is because if you're going into areas with venomous snakes, it just takes one student stepping on one who wasn't wearing boots/guards to have a serious health crisis (and a lot of questions for the program.

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