LOUISVILLE, KY -- In an effort to curb “freshman 15” weight gain, researchers at the University of Louisville are conducting a 10-week program with incoming students.

The program, called Fit into College, is designed to reduce students’ risk of becoming overweight or obese using a diet and exercise intervention plan.

The multidisciplinary project recruited students with expertise in nursing, exercise physiology, campus health providers and intramural sports to serve as peer educators for the 40 freshmen participating in the program.

By using a multipronged approach, project organizers hope to help students make long-term behavioral changes so they can begin making healthy choices regarding food and fitness.

“Modifying health behavior involves changing the cognitive process, which means altering knowledge, attitude and beliefs concerning the behavior,” Lee Ridner, co-project leader and School of Nursing faculty member, said in a statement.

Students will learn how to properly use fitness equipment and receive reinforcement for maintaining their motivation to exercise. They also will participate in exercising programs in their residence hall and learn strategies on remaining fit for life.

In addition to exercise instruction, the freshmen are learning how to shop for and prepare healthy meals.

“High school students leave home and rarely have an idea how to buy healthy food or prepare a nutritional meal,” said Robert Topp, co-project leader and School of Nursing assistant dean for research. “This program includes a field trip to the grocery store and a week each focused on how to plan a meal and how to cook it.”

Other aspects of the program focus on evaluating the nutritional value of food, how to eat healthy from vending machines and how to best navigate the Student Activities Center food court.