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.
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!
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."
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 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!
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."
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Address small problems before they become big.
Avoid overcommitting yourself & just do your best.
Don't lose sight of the people and things that are important to you despite how busy you may be.
Remember to laugh.
Live in the present.
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
Students not exercising enough
Schools not offering physical education classes
Students not being aware of what is actually healthy and what is not
Students lacking in self-control
Vending machines offering snacks that are not nutritious
Drinking too much
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.
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.
Get informed about obesity and the actions you can take to live healthier.
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!