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Jun 11 2016
by Meghan Field

A Comprehensive Guide to Staying Healthy in College

By Meghan Field - Jun 11 2016
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Health and wellness: unfortunately, these two aspects of a person's well being are thrown away in college, due to the amount of stress, work and commitments that students have. For freshmen, the college experience is completely new and it could be hard to get into the swing of things health wise. But with colleges offering health care, activities and gyms for students, it is easier than ever to stay healthy during your time at college. So make sure you take advantage of all your college has to offer health wise, as it is vital to remain healthy in college to be successful.

Dieting Tips

if your diet starts to go down the drain, there will be dire consequences such as putting on weight and illness: both of which you don’t want to happen during your freshmen year.

Watch your caloric intake.

To avoid the dreaded “freshman fifteen” be sure to watch how much you eat. With food plans that allow for tons of food to be picked and always having snacks in your room, it could be tempting to eat as much as you can whenever you feel like it. In reality, it is important to start to think about your eating habits right when you step foot on campus, as not all of the choices provided are healthy in the long run.

Learn the proper portion sizes.

Make sure you know how much you really should be eating of a specific type of food. A rough estimate is, when eating a proper meal, that your plate should contain half a plate of fruits or veggies, a quarter plate of protein and a quarter plate of carbohydrates. If you are having a snack, make sure you look on the label to check out the portion sizes.

Drink water.

Whenever you have the chance to drink a sugary drink such as soda or lemonade or water, choose water. Water is an essential in life. If you don’t consume enough of it, then you can become dehydrated, which is not something you ever want to happen to you, especially during your college years. It is recommended that everyday you drink the amount of ounces that is half your weight. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, you should drink 65 ounces of water a day, but more if you work out.

Limit alcohol consumption.

Yes, drinking as a freshman does happen more frequently than it should, considering students are underage. If you drink in moderation, you can have a good time without hurting your health too much. Just be wary that alcohol interferes with communication between the brain and kidney which causes excess excretion of fluids which can lead to dehydration.

Don’t skip meals.

If you don’t eat, you will definitely lose energy over time. Make it a habit, even with your busy college schedule, to set out even a few healthy snacks that you can eat on the run or while you’re doing your homework or other obligations. It will matter in the long run.

Take vitamins.

It is important to fill the holes in your diet to remain the healthiest you can be. If you feel like you aren’t consuming enough Vitamin D, for example, go out and purchase some Vitamin D supplements from your local pharmacy or drugstore in order to stay healthy and illness free.

Keep junk food out of sight.

Out of sight, out of mind right? Not necessarily. But if you keep healthy food options in your dorm rather than junk food, you will definitely choose the healthy food you have stored in your dorm when you are in a rush to go somewhere and you need to eat, rather than scavenging for an unhealthy option. It is okay to consume junk food in moderation. After you finished a huge essay and you want to treat yourself go have some not so healthy, delicious food to treat yourself. Make sure eating junk food does not become a habit.


Exercise Tips 

While it might be hard to find time to fit exercise into your seemingly endless schedule, it is still important to try to exercise while you can to stay in shape and remain healthy.

Walk to class.

This tip may seem obvious, but this goes especially for those who are attending a large campus. It might be tempting to wait for a shuttle to maneuver you around campus, but you don’t burn any calories just sitting around! If you have a class that is 10 minutes away, you burn around 50 calories. Now doing that multiple times a day will really add up when it comes to staying in shape.

Hit the gym.

Most campuses have multiple gyms that you can either utilize for a small fee each semester or even for free! In your free time, rather than just sitting around and doing nothing, make it a habit to go to the gym a couple of times a week. It is always more fun going with your friends, so see if your roommate would be down to go with you and then see if others would like to go with you as well. You are usually more motivated to get up and get moving if others are too.

Play an intramural sport.

If you played a sport throughout high school and still want to continue to do so in college but not at a collegiate level, then join your college's intramural team for that specific sport. It is a great way to stay in shape while doing something you have always loved. Even if you have never played a sport or have always wanted to try a specific sport, join the intramural team to try it out for the first time! And if you end up not liking it, that’s not a problem. It’s easy enough to try another sport rather than being completely committed to play for said sport.

Take a yoga or Zumba class.

Many colleges offer some sort of fitness clubs, that can range from a yoga club, Zumba club, health and wellness club, etc. Being a part of a club that is focused towards staying active will certainly be a motivation to keep moving and staying active even at college.

Work all parts of your body.

When you work out, make sure you don’t just focus on the same parts of your body each time! Don’t just do ab workouts each time you decide to go to the gym. Focus on other parts of your body such as your arms, legs and back. In addition, take advantage of opportunities to do cardio, strength and conditioning, and stretching.


Dealing With Stress 

Even though college is extremely stressful, it is important to reduce your stress levels to not feel run down.

Give yourself a break.

Working on projects, essays and assignments for hours can cause tons of stress and take a toll on your well being. Make sure you have built in breaks in order to give your mind a break from all of the schoolwork you have to take care of. If you don’t you might become so overworked that you will have a negative attitude about your work in general.

Cut back if necessary.

Although it is great to get involved in various clubs and organizations and you might feel as though it is necessary to go to every review session offered for a particular class you might be struggling in, it is okay to not get involved in everything that comes your way. If you have to drop out of a club in order to have more relaxation time, don’t make it a big deal and enjoy the freed up time you have for yourself. Your schedule will definitely be more manageable.

Learn time management skills.

If you don’t use your time effectively, you might be scrambling to get all of your work done. If you know you’re a huge procrastinator and have been all of high school, you certainly don’t want that to transfer through to college! Try to fix wasting time at the source as soon as you step on campus.

Invest in an agenda.

Knowing what you have to do is a million times easier when you have a place to keep everything organized. The feeling of crossing something out or putting a check next to it in a to-do list is so rewarding. Maintaining a list is extremely important in college in order to ensure all due dates are met.

Spend time with friends.

It is important to spend time with others and stay social. Take a break from homework and go hang out with your friends. It is vital to have others take your mind off of anything that may be currently stressing you out.

Create a routine.

If you get yourself into the habit of doing certain things at certain times throughout the day, your college life will be a lot less stressful since you have time set aside to do each activity. It will soon be easier to fit all of the things you need to do throughout the day without being too stressed out.


Sleeping Tips

 Getting enough sleep is integral to staying healthy at college.

Avoid all nighters.

Although you may feel the need to stay up all night and study, that is not healthy and it will certainly catch up to you. You should aim for around 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Not getting enough sleep can impair your alertness, thinking processes, and ability to stay awake in class, which is not good.

Take small naps.

If you do have the time and are feeling particularly tired, feel free to take a nap. Set your alarm for half an hour to fit in a quick nap. You will wake up feeling refreshed and you will be able to focus better – a nap will do you good.

Avoid eating and drinking before bed.

Eating and drinking can really throw off your body’s internal clock, making it harder to settle down and go to bed. Try to limit eating and drinking to a few hours before going to bed.

Work out a schedule with your roommate.

Unfortunately, it is often hard for you and your roommate to be on the same schedule. Just talk out your sleeping schedules with each other, and make sure to be courteous and aware when your roommate needs quiet time to sleep. It is important for both of you to get the sleep you need.

Keep your dorm as dark, quiet and as cool as possible.

Although that may be hard, try to make those three aspects happen. It will help send a signal to your body that it is time to get some shut eye.

Create a bedtime routine.

If you are a person who has trouble falling asleep quickly, try coming up with certain things you do at night right before bed. Then, you body will soon become aware that you are approaching bedtime.


Avoid Illness

When you are sick, do something about it. Don’t just wait for your illness to go away.

Wash your hands frequently.

One of the easiest ways to prevent illness is to make sure your hands are clean. Either stop in a bathroom to wash them or carry around a hand sanitizer with you while you are out and about. But if you have the option to wash your hands with soap and water, definitely pick that over using hand sanitizer. This is so important because, otherwise, when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with germs on your hands it can cause you to become sick.

Avoid sharing drinks with others.

Friends are notorious for sharing beverages with one another. Doing so can cause you to become sick. It often takes a few days for a cold or some sickness of sorts to show symptoms, so even if your friend say he or she is not sick they could actually be sick and just not know it yet. Always get your own drink.

When you are sick, don’t ignore it.

If you keep up your daily routine while you are sick, you will most likely go backwards in progress by getting worse. Make sure you pay close attention to your symptoms and try over the counter medicine that will help your symptoms. If your illness persists, head over to your college’s health center for further assistance.

Stay away from others.

While you are sick, you do not want to share your germs with others and get them sick, just like you would not like someone to share their germs with you when they are sick. Being around others will increase the likelihood of germs being shared.

Get a flu shot.

With all of the germs around campus, sometimes getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent getting seriously sick throughout the school year. Either get one at your family doctor while you are at home during the fall or ask your college’s health center about getting a flu shot, since most offer them for a reduced cost.

Lead Image Credit: skeeze via pixabay.com

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Meghan Field - Pennsylvania State University

Meghan is a sophomore at Penn State - University Park. She's from Hershey, PA. She is going to major in Biobehavioral Health and Psychology with a minor in Global Health. She has been dancing her whole life and has always had an interest in writing and anything science related. Instagram is @meghanfield.

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