Staying Healthy in College

For many, college is the first venture towards true independence away from family. With so many things to keep in mind including exams, homework, classes, and projects, it can be difficult to stay on top of everyday chores like laundry, not to mention staying healthy. In fact, staying healthy requires students to carve time out of their busy schedules to exercise and eat right. There are many aspects to good health. One can work hard to maintain physical health, but it's also essential to keep mental health in mind.

Sounding like a bit too much to chew? Luckily, a few simple steps can be taken each day to make healthy living doable. For example, students can incorporate a few minutes of exercise into their daily routines. These minutes can be spent jogging, biking, or even brisk walking. Learning to cook at home will also help to sustain a healthy lifestyle. By cooking, you can choose healthy ingredients and be fully aware of what you put into your body. In addition to these simple steps toward wellness, below are some tips for maintaining health in college.

Achieving Life Balance through Socialization

College is not only a place for students to learn new things academically and earn their degrees, it is also a space to network and get to know other people. Many of these people can be your great friends throughout your college career, if not become lifelong friends. Having a healthy social life will give a sense of balance in your day to day living, which is essential not only for your health, but also your academic success. Madison Hallett, a contributor of UNIGO, shares that having an active social life in college has many benefits, including helping students study better.

A fantastic way to get to meet new people is to join academic clubs or organizations of your interest on campus. Love fashion? Consider joining a fashion-forward organization where you can meet like-minded individuals. Have a passion for helping others? There are many fraternities with community service missions that may be ideal for you. If you enjoy the outdoors, you may want to look into joining a sports team. This will help you get in your exercise while meeting new people with similar interests!

Avoiding Drugs & Alcohol

Since college is the first time many get to be on their own, it's only natural that students are curious and want to try new things. Drugs and alcohol are some of these "things" that people like to experiment with during their university years. The backbone to good health is staying away from drugs and alcohol. They say that "you are who you hang out with," so it's important to choose friends with similar values so that you aren't tempted to get into the scene.

Students are much more likely to engage in behaviors that their friends take part in, so surrounding yourself with those who abstain from substances will steer you toward the right path. This is not to say that you should completely cut off those who drink occasionally. You can always volunteer to be the designated driver. This way, you can not only help get your friend(s) home safely, you also have an excuse out of the peer pressure that you might get in a group setting involving drinking.

Alcohol has many detriments to the human body. Industry expert Cathy Doran states that alcoholism "is a progressive and potentially fatal disease process that impacts every organ in your body and every aspect of your life."

Taking Study Breaks

Rather than cramming for exams, consider studying in blocks to help your brain digest information better and prevent unnecessary anxiety and stress. It is much healthier to study in bits and pieces on a regular basis instead of stuffing a ton of new material into your brain in hopes that everything will stay in time for an exam. Frequent study breaks are vital for maintaining mental health. What you do during these breaks is up to you -- you could grab a snack with a friend, work out, walk around the room, or take a nap. These activities will help your mind and body reset, allowing you to concentrate and keep your blood flowing.

Eating Right

Eating right can be a student's biggest challenge. With limited time and budget, it's easy for students to turn to snacks and fast food instead of having healthy meals. Dorm food can often be greasy and may not be cooked with quality ingredients. The best way to nourish your body with the most nutritious foods is to learn how to cook. Cooking healthy meals at home can be a game changer when it comes to maintaining health. Health and wellness coach Christy Wilson emphasizes that one meal will not make or break your health. So, it's important for people to make a commitment to having a consistently good eating pattern and diet. What you eat regularly on a daily basis will either help to keep you healthy or lead to illness.

Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian, encourages individuals to plan, prepare, and store healthy foods for the week. Meal prepping and bulk cooking during the weekends are great habits to get into if you are on a time crunch during the week. In between classes, it's smart to have healthy snacks on hand like raw veggies and fresh fruits. These will surely give you the energy you need to succeed everyday!

Getting Enough Sleep

It is only natural for students to stress about their classes, papers, and exams coming up. When there is so much going on, it starts to feel like there isn't enough time in a day. Regardless, it's important to remember that your body needs rest to function properly. Ideally, one should have at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Getting enough sleep will allow your body to rest and reset for the next day. After getting up from a well-rested night, it's a lot more motivating to work hard and study again.

Suffer from insomnia or difficulty getting yourself into bed and falling asleep at a reasonable time? Sleep expert Robert Rosenberg shares that having a cup of green or chamomile tea helps him sleep. He explains, "Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid which is able to cross the blood brain barrier. It increases alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are seen in electroencephalograms during relaxed wakefulness just before sleep. This is probably one of the ways that theanine induces a relaxed state and decreases anxiety. Chamomile contains apigenin, a plant based compound, that stimulates calming gabba receptors in the brain and helps to promote sleep."

Exercising Regularly

Not only is ample sleep vital for healthy and happy bodies, so is exercise! Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratley states that "exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning."

Exercise is not only good for staying healthy, it also can be very rejuvenating and help you stay alert in school. It can be a challenge to stick with an exercise routine, so instead of stressing over this, invest effort in staying active throughout the day. This could be as simple as biking or walking to class. Working out does not need to be done in one large chunk of time; rather, it can be beneficial to break it apart throughout the day to ensure that your body stays active.

Cardiovascular activity is also very important for maintaining health. If you're not much of a runner, you can try jumping jacks or sit-ups. The best part is, these physical activities can be done from the comfort of your home! Coupled with a good diet and enough sleep, exercise will bring you far in having a positive lifestyle!

Drinking Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated is key to feeling and looking good. Hectic schedules can make it difficult to remember to drink water. As a result, students often get chronic headaches and feel under the weather. Drinking enough water will help you stay alert, focused, and allow you to concentrate on your studies. It also works wonders in preventing you from overeating or stress-eating. Keep a water bottle on you so that you can stay hydrated in between, during, and after classes.

Practicing Portion Control

Even with the healthiest foods, it is important to practice portion control to make sure that you are not overeating. Jay Cardiello, a personal trainer, explains that "explains that you need to "make sure chicken breasts, (and) meats, are no larger than your palm" and that "spaghettis, (and) pastas, are no larger than your fists."" He also suggests using "smaller bowls, plates, and cups" because studies show people "serve themselves 20 to 40% more food when they're using larger plates."

Many students will "stress eat." In addition to eating healthy foods, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep, it's important to monitor your food intake and make sure you use good judgment with servings relative to your body size. This will help you avoid the much dreaded "freshman 15" which really, can happen at any stage during those college years.

Taking Vitamins

Do you have doubts about getting all the nutrition that you need? Taking vitamin supplements will help you err on the safe side. Multi-vitamins will ensure that you get all the vitamins that you need that may be missing or inadequate in your meals. Ensuring that you are well-nourished will help you stay free of illnesses and full of energy to tackle schoolwork.

Cutting Down on the Sugar

When possible, minimize drinking sugary drinks. While they don't fill you up, they are bad for your health and can fatten you up quickly. It is not necessary to completely give up sodas and coffee, but again, portion control and good judgment will bring you and your health far! Craving sweets? Opt for a fresh berry smoothie or better yet, bunch on some fruits on their own.

Looking for creative ways on how to cut down on the sugar? Health expert Dr. Frank Lipman shares his thoughts on how you can control your sugar intake, so that you can enjoy the sweet life for years to come.

Having a Hearty Breakfast

It may sound cliched, but it's true! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is especially true for college students because a healthy meal to start the day will keep your stomach happy and allow your brain to focus in class or on your studies. There's nothing worse than a growling stomach during a 90 minute lecture! Not sure what to have for breakfast? Oatmeal with flaxseed and fruits with a cup of orange juice is a great start. For more ideas, check out this blog post that compiles the healthy breakfast options suggested by a number of nutrition experts.

Managing Stress

College students have to juggle a lot at once; not only are there homework assignments to complete and exams to prep for, students also have to set aside time to socialize and take care of themselves. With so much to attend to, it can easily get overwhelming, especially for one who may be accustomed to his or her parents helping out with chores like doing laundry, preparing healthy meals, etc.

While the independence may seem exciting, it also really challenges a person to manage their time wisely. In addition to time, students also have to learn to manage their stress. Stress prevents people from performing their best, and often makes them tired early on in the day. In the long run, it is detrimental to everyday health and vitality.

Director of Stress Management Counseling Center in New York City, Allen Elkin reminds us that stress is a part of life, but it doesn't mean that we have to be frazzled or distraught by every stressor in life. Being too anxious can be a health hazard in the long run. With that said, here are some measures students can take to mitigate stress:

Don't procrastinate.

  • Starting on assignments and projects early on can not only help you think and process information better, it can also help you stay calm. Rather than stressing over having to finish something at the last minute, consider completing your assignments step by step, in an organized fashion. This will allow you to avoid the time pressure that inevitably causes unnecessary stress.

Address small problems before they become big.

  • Feeling lost about a topic or subject? Reach out to your professor early on before quizzes and exam dates loom, as that will give you enough time to digest the new information and get the help you need. In college, you don't have anyone making sure that you are understanding the material or completing your homework, so it's your responsibility to get assistance as soon as you know you need it. This will also help you avoid accumulating a ton of failed quizzes and exams.
  • If you are feeling unsure about what your academic path is, then it is advisable that you speak with an academic advisor to discuss and make changes as necessary.
  • Remember that problems don't go away with time, unless you take the needed actions. If ignored, the problems could get bigger and cause stress.

Avoid overcommitting yourself & just do your best.

  • Being a high-achiever is often a good thing, however it can also be very stressful when you have a lot to juggle. This is often the case in college, so it's important to know when and what is "enough." Just do your best and put in your greatest effort -- we are all human and bound to not ace every exam, and that's okay.

Don't lose sight of the people and things that are important to you despite how busy you may be.

  • This means maintaining your relationship with friends and family, taking care of yourself by working out and eating right, and squeezing in time to do things that fulfill you. These activities will help you relieve stress and stay balanced.
  • A balanced lifestyle will lead to a healthy life, and open your mind to bigger and better things!

Remember to laugh.

  • Even in the most stressful situations, there's always a reason to laugh and smile. Cherish those reasons and make the most of it. Laughter helps us release stress and tense muscles. You may find it easier to go back to studying after having a humorous chat with a friend or watching a funny movie.
  • There's a lot more to life than what's currently stressing you out -- whether it be a big project, an exam, or a quiz to study for. College is a time for learning, but it's also a time for fun and you don't want to let it pass you by!

Live in the present.

  • Don't worry too much about the past or future; rather, focus on making the present the best that it can be. You can't change what already happened, but you can make the future a good one by taking each day gracefully and giving it your best.

Obesity & Why Many Students Suffer From It

According to the CDC, more than 1/3 of children and adolescents were obese in 2012. Obesity is a serious issue, especially as people get older. Healthy habits must start early to avoid health complications later on. Those who are overweight are likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The cause of obesity can vary from lack of exercise to poor dietary choices, and often a combination of both. Some other factors contributing to obesity include the following:

Students not being able to afford healthy foods

  • College in itself is pricey, and that doesn't account for students' living expenses and food. Full-time students often do not have time to take on a job to make income and afford healthy foods. Instead, they usually go with what colleges offer to them at dining halls, which are not always the healthiest.
  • The lunch prices even on campus are getting steeper each year, making it even more challenging for students to have a nutrient-packed lunch that has all the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. Others who can't afford quality food may also snack on junk, which can cause obesity and other health issues.
  • With so many financial obligations, students have to really learn how to budget wisely in college. Students may take shortcuts instead of buying fresh produce and healthy foods if money is tight.

Students not exercising enough

  • College is a busy time for many, with exams, homework, projects, events, and more to take into consideration. Having a balance can feel out of reach at times, and it's only natural for students to feel worn out. Working out actually helps people get out of that state and mentality, however, many struggle to even fit in some time (or get out of their bed/couch/desk) to go work out. Exercising is important to avoid and/or shed off the extra pounds!

Schools not offering physical education classes

  • Some campuses do not offer physical education classes, which is a shame because as a result, students do not know the importance of being active everyday. Encouraging students to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine will help curb obesity in the college setting.

Students not being aware of what is actually healthy and what is not

  • With food packaging being tricky and misleading at times, it can be difficult to know what is actually healthy and what is not. For example, a grocery store may have a smoothie for sale advertising plenty of vitamin c, e, d… you name it. But before you praise it for being so healthy, take a look at the sugar content! Too much sugar can be unhealthy and cause health problems.

Students lacking in self-control

  • College is a time where people may find it hardest to say "no." This doesn't just mean abstaining from alcohol and drugs which serve great detriments to the body, but also turning down unhealthy snacks that are tempting. Without self-control, it's so easy to down an entire box of Oreos. Or eat a huge feast at 12 am. You'll regret it when you get Freshman 15!
  • The director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, Connie Diekman, notes that new college students are more susceptible to weight gain because "Coming to college is a big change for young adults. They are confronted with food any hour of the day and there is no one telling them what or when to eat. They have to learn to choose both what and when to eat for themselves." She also explains that this independence also often leads to lack of exercise, which can contribute to weight gain.

Vending machines offering snacks that are not nutritious

  • Vending machines are usually readily available everywhere on campus, making it easy for students to grab a quick drink or snack while on-the-go. More often than not, these offerings are not very healthy and instead, and empty-calorie snacks. However, students often rely on these vending machines instead of choosing a healthier food option because they are convenient.
  • In the midst of studying long hours, it is not uncommon that students forget to eat actual meals. Many snack throughout the day (on empty-calorie foods). Instead of packing an actual meal or making a trip to the cafeteria across h3, students find it easier to grab a candy bar and soda from a vending machine. Eating well-rounded, healthy meals are not only good for proper brain activity, it also will help you avoid gaining unwanted weight.

Drinking too much

  • The struggle of "beer belly" is real… but yet, students find themselves drinking to fit in, relieve stress, socialize, and more. Alcohol contains plenty of empty calories, but most don't stop to think about that. It can also lead to snacking on salty foods, which adds insult to injury. Limiting alcohol intake or cutting it out altogether will help prevent obesity and other health problems in the long run.

Small Measures that Make a Difference

The idea of maintaining optimal health can be a drag if not a burden for many college students. If you're feeling overwhelmed, consider taking these small measures that will make a considerable difference with time.

Walk or bike to your destinations.

  • Instead of driving or taking public transportation everywhere, consider walking or biking to your destinations. Even brisk walking from one class to the next is great exercise.

Limit alcohol intake, or abstain from it altogether.

  • Alcohol is something that many college students have a hard time turning down. Yet, they don't stop to think about the consequences excessive drinking can have. Cutting down on alcohol or not drinking at all will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Choose healthy snacks.

  • Instead of overly sugary or salty snacks, opt to eat fresh fruits, crunchy vegetables, and small packs of nuts.
  • Dietitian Cheryl Forberg shares that she packs a handful of snacks on-the-go to give her an instant energy boost when needed. It also helps avoid temptations to eat unhealthy foods.

Don't skip meals.

  • Eating on a regular schedule can be tough when your schedule is packed with so many other obligations as a college student. However, it's important to make sure you eat and try not to skip any meals. Starvation can lead to overeating, poor food choices, and body aches or malfunction.

Invest in a small fridge and microwave for your dorm.

  • Stock your fridge with healthy snacks like string cheese, veggies, fruits, and yogurt. Use your microwave to heat up oatmeal for breakfast. Keep on hand healthy frozen meals so that you don't feel tempted to go the fast-food route at midnight.

Say yes to active social events.

  • Feeling social? Find events on campus that allow you to not only socialize, but also get your workout in. Examples include free yoga classes. Many of the students showing up will also likely be prioritizing their health while looking to make new friends.

Indulge from time to time, and use good judgment.

  • Once you get the hang of how to be healthy, feel free to indulge a little on your favorite foods, even if they are unhealthy. But, remember to practice portion control and use good judgment. It's totally okay to have a cheat day as long as you are responsible about it! Indulging every so often can be a good thing because it will eliminate the feeling of deprivation. In turn, you'll be a lot more motivated to make healthy choices during the week.

Loving Your Body During (& After!) College

As cliched as this may sound, you only have one body -- so take good care of it! Without health, it's impossible to succeed in school and do the things we do everyday. With that said, it's essential to love and nourish your body with the best foods out there. In addition to food, one should adopt a healthy lifestyle that involves balance and physical activity everyday.

For additional resources on how you can be healthier during your college years and beyond, check out the following resources:


    Learn more about obesity, why it's a serious issue, and the measures you can take to prevent it.


    Find out why it's so important to squeeze in physical activity into your daily routine to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


    his resource has a variety of articles about obesity, importance of exercise, and body care that are useful.

  • Alliance for a Healthier Generation

    Get informed about obesity and the actions you can take to live healthier.

  • Student Health Services

    Check out these 101 health & wellness tips for college students. These tips go into detail as to why sleep, exercise, and diet are so crucial for optimal health. There are also tips on how to maintain mental health and curb stress in school.

The earlier you start forming good habits, the sooner you will feel healthier and keep the lifestyle going during and after college. Healthy individuals feel good and in turn, are able to focus on their daily tasks, assignments, and more!