Tips for staying fit, healthy during college chaos

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Heart with stay healthy wording in the center

Trying to balance school, work and a social life comes with a lot of responsibilities and can consume a lot of time. Trying to stay healthy and incorporate fitness into an already full list of “to-dos” can be even more difficult and can seem impossible. 

Professor and Department Chair of Wellness and Exercise Science, Anne Provencher, said nutrition and a hectic schedule can affect all five components of health.

“Your nutrition is key and that will affect your sleeping habits, because you’re studying, it will affect your mental habits because you’re learning. It’ll affect your emotional health, because you’re learning how to do things on your own and how to represent yourself, and then socially, it can drive you to meet more people and be more outward and extrovert, or it can make you be quiet and reserved.”

Students express their struggles of finding ways to stay healthy in college.

“Now that I’m a part-time student it’s been a bit easier, but back when I lived on campus and was full-time, it was hard to be able to find time because of how many classes I took,” Victoria Deal, general studies major said. “I’d have classes all day and then all this homework. I felt like I only had time for school and some organizations on campus I used to be a part of.”

In the midst of juggling a plethora of tasks, here are some simple tips to maintain physical health in college.

Graphic by Chris Swann

Healthy Food Choices

When eating, it’s important to not overeat and consume too many calories as this can lead to gaining weight. There’s no “one size fits all” diet but try to eat fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein daily to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“When you go over to the cafeteria and eat, you have to make better choices. They offer lots of things that are better choices for you,” Provencher said. “When it comes to the weekend, you know go to the store and pick out things that you know are better for you that you can manage in your room with microwaves and that kind of stuff. A fruit, a vegetable and meat. That’s all you need to be focusing on one of each.”

Graphic by Chris Swann

Eat Breakfast

Some may think skipping breakfast helps lose weight and burn calories. According to a study done by the University of Louisville, doing this actually teaches your body to go into survival mode, causing it to burn less calories. This leads to a lower metabolic rate, sluggish energy and weight gain. Some quick breakfast foods are instant oatmeal or cream of wheat, avocado toast and breakfast bars that contain lots of protein and low calories.

Graphic by Chris Swann

Drink Water

Our bodies are made up of 70% water and cannot function without it. It is imperative to continually hydrate the body and skin. According to healthline.com, water helps maximize physical performance. It has a direct effect on brain function and energy levels, it carries nutrients to cells and can even treat and prevent headaches along with many other benefits. Carrying a water bottle to drink from during class can prevent dehydration.

Stay Active

Graphic by Chris Swann

Sitting for long periods of time can cause obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and overall sluggishness. So what can one do when they are required to sit in class all day? Staying active doesn’t have to consist of just going to the gym. Taking a small walk in between classes, stretching, yoga and even dancing around to your favorite songs are all ways to get the body moving and the blood flowing. During available free time, take a walk around the neighborhood with a friend or follow along to an at-home YouTube workout video. Body activity leads to a more energized mind and a healthier heart.

“You can get on the internet and find any kind of exercise video you want that you could do at home,” Provencher said. “So that’s the thing about fitting it into your schedule, you have to make the choice that has to matter enough for you to fit it into your schedule.”

Graphic by Chris Swann

Time

Without time management, there wouldn’t be room in one’s schedule to work out, meal prep and maintain all areas of health. Purchase a planner or fill in a calendar on a device to choose the best times to exercise, plan meals and rest. With this course of action, sustaining health can become a bit less challenging.

“You have to learn to manage your time because if you’re not getting enough food, you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not getting enough activity, it’s going to affect everything else,” Provencher said.

The last tip is to know that a health/fitness journey doesn’t have to be done alone. Everyone goes at their own pace and has different goals. Be surrounded by people who would bring aid and motivation to get through it.

“Find a fitness/health partner,” government major Aaron Hernandez said. “Y’all could encourage each other and work out together. It would make it fun.”