College can be an amazing time for young adults, but it can also be extremely stressful. Instead of turning to healthier solutions for stress like exercising and eating well, most college students resort to negative coping habits. These habits typically involve drinking alcohol, choosing greasier and more calorie-dense meals, and neglecting physical exercise altogether. These factors combined explain why 70% of students gain weight during college. This phenomenon commonly referred to as the ‘Freshman 15’ is very real. When the Freshman 15 sets in, it becomes harder to stay healthy in college, so best to squash that 15 before it accumulates.
If you want to be the exception and stay fit throughout college, here are seven effortless ways to incorporate healthy habits into your student routine.
Familiarize Yourself With Available Resources
The majority of college campuses offer an abundance of free resources to help students manage both their mental and physical health. If you attend a relatively large college, there is almost certainly a state-of-the-art athletic facility that allows student access. These recreation centers hone the talent of top-notch athletes, but they can also help you stay physically active throughout college.
Many colleges recognize the pivotal role of physical health to student success. In an attempt to encourage students to engage in physical exercise, recreation centers are available to students at no extra cost. In addition, colleges typically make an effort to offer a wide range of activities at these centers.
This is your chance to explore as many different fitness classes and top-of-the-line fitness equipment completely for free. Make sure to take advantage of it. Outside of college, yoga classes and gym memberships are not cheap. It’s important to try as many different activities because exercising is significantly easier when you find a physical activity you enjoy. If you dread exercise, you probably just haven’t found the right exercise for you yet.
Create A Routine That Works For You
For the most part, you get to decide your schedule in college. This new sense of freedom can be liberating, but it also comes with some responsibilities. Resist the urge to spend all of your evenings at a local club or frat party. Instead, dedicate some of that time to forming a self-care routine.
Your self-care routine should include at least 7 hours of sleep and regularly scheduled exercise. It’s crucial to incorporate exercise into your schedule because otherwise, it becomes easy to use readings and extracurriculars as an excuse to skip your workout. However, if you schedule a workout at the same time every week, there’s a good chance it’ll develop into a habit.
At the same time, you shouldn’t follow your routine rigidly. If you need extra time to study for an upcoming exam, cut down your workout time by half. If you pulled an all-nighter finishing a term paper, skip your workout altogether. There’s no point in working out sleep-deprived. You might cause injury to yourself or someone else at the gym.
Studies show that students who exercised vigorously and regularly are less likely to suffer from poor mental health. This means that working out is an effective strategy for managing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Remind yourself of this fact the next time you get the urge to skip your workout.
Another great way to motivate yourself is to place your workout clothes somewhere visible the night before a scheduled workout. Seeing a visual cue of your intention to exercise increases the chance of it actually happening.
Conversely, you could reward yourself for being consistent with your exercise routine. Treat yourself with guilt-free time doing something you enjoy or by going out with friends.
Find A Workout Buddy
If you’re lucky enough to find a roommate that also values their health, you can keep each other accountable. You are far less likely to skip a workout if someone else is expecting you to show up and follow through.
In the event that you don’t have a roommate who likes to exercise or a roommate at all, ask a friend to keep you accountable instead. Chances are, you know at least one person who exercises regularly.
“One of the benefits of having a workout buddy is having someone to spot you if you like weight training,” advises Jeffery Merkel, a college blogger at Assignment Service. “If there are equipment you’ve never used before, your gym buddy might be able to help you navigate them.” Depending on their expertise, they might even be able to correct your form to help you develop good gym habits.
Take The Scenic Route To Class
Unless you have back-to-back classes, get in a few extra steps by taking the long route to your next class. Walking can be highly beneficial for your health. It can boost energy levels, release endorphins, and increase blood flow.
Taking the scenic route also gives you the opportunity to see your campus in all of its glory. College is supposed to be some of the best years of your life. Slow down, take a walk, and enjoy it.
Track Your Food
When you have a meal plan, it becomes easy to justify grabbing comfort food rather than healthier options. To avoid eating too many meals that are calorie-dense and less nutritious, track what you eat.
There are several fitness apps that allow you to instantly record your meals and see their nutritional value. Alternatively, you can create your own tracker by simply writing down each meal. The purpose of this practice is to hold yourself accountable for what you put into your body. Your food diary is ultimately a reflection of how well you’re taking care of yourself.
Be Cautious Of Liquid Calories
How many caffeinated beverages do you consume in a day? Unless you drink your coffee black, sugary sources of caffeine add up. Too much caffeine also causes anxiety and jitters. Though it won’t always be possible, it’s better to prioritize sleep instead of consuming excessive amounts of caffeine.
Another liquid calorie to be aware of is our drinks. While most drinks are not that bad calorie-wise, many of them contain high levels of sugar. Diet drinks can still make our bodies crave carbohydrates, and alcoholic drinks contain a whole other level of empty calories in alcohol. The best choice is always water, tea, and other naturally low-calorie, low additive drinks.
Prioritizing your health throughout college is essential to your academic success. Healthy habits such as exercising and choosing high-protein foods can help you combat the stress of college. With these tips, being fit and healthy doesn’t have to be as hard as passing some of your courses.