College students are one of the most notoriously unhealthy groups of people in our country. Whether it’s because they are off on their own for the first time, or simply don’t put forth the effort to keep themselves healthy, is a matter of debate. What is known, however, is that college students are a quite unhealthy lot.
If you’re starting college this year, it would be in your best interest to break the mold and keep yourself as healthy as possible. Being a newly independent young adult is no excuse to neglect your health. Instead, look at your new-found independence as a chance to show your parents that you are more than capable of taking perfectly good care of yourself!
Here are five tips on starting, and keeping, healthy habits while in college:
1. Get Enough Sleep
Cramming for exams, pulling all-nighters at the bar and getting up early for class can all contribute to strange sleep schedules. When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, your immune system is weakened. When your immune system is weakened, you are more susceptible to illness. Remember this: as much as you think you can, you can never “catch up” on sleep; your body simply doesn’t work that way. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night and do what you can to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
2. Eat Right
College students seem to survive on Ramen noodles and beer. While they may be surviving, they aren’t doing so in a healthy manner. Pay close attention to what you are putting into your body! Pizza, fast food and snacks can virtually ensure an illness when the next flu wave strikes. Nothing is wrong with these foods in moderation, just don’t make them a staple of your diet. Instead, take advantage of your meal card and opt for healthy choices in the dining hall.
Don’t make a mistake and think that walking to and from class means that you are getting plenty of exercise. If your heart isn’t pumping for at least 15 minutes, you aren’t doing anything positive for your body. If you can find the time, plan a bike ride or long walk at least three times a week. To make it easier, look for a phys ed class that will give you a healthy work out and a credit or two!
4. Go to the Clinic
Your parents are by your side to make sure you go to the doctor when you’re sick; you’ve got to take care of that on your own. If you’ve got a head cold, a trip to the local drug store will suffice. However, if you’ve got the flu, bronchitis or a suspected major illness, you must take advantage of the student health clinic. Ignoring your symptoms may lead to a worse, longer-lasting illness.
5. Try Not To Stress
Easier said than done, but you really need to watch your stress meter. You will be inundated with new information as well as impossible demands for homework and social engagements! Start learning some coping strategies early on: it will help you stave off sickness and keep your much needed sanity. Remember to take frequent breaks and give your self time to recover in between big exams.
Believe it or not, it is possible to stay healthy in college. In fact, if you have followed unhealthy habits in the past, it’s even possible to improve your health and fitness once you get to college. Remember that you are responsible for yourself; mom and dad aren’t hovering over your shoulder to make sure you make the right choices!