5 Tips for Staying in Shape While in College

College Fitness ChickI recently told you how to make time for fitness in college, but still the majority of college students are not overly concerned about their weight, at least not when they first enter the vaunted halls of learning. And it’s really not that surprising considering that young adults tend to enjoy a speedy metabolism.

Unfortunately, the high stress, lack of sleep, and unpredictable eating habits of college students can quickly wreak havoc with an otherwise healthy and functional metabolism, leading to the dreaded freshman fifteen. And when you’re studying abroad, the unfamiliar surroundings and generally overwhelming experience could make it difficult to devise a plan for improved fitness.

However, it’s not so hard to stay in shape, and college kids are bound to bounce back more quickly than older adults. So if you happen to be suffering from this all-too-common issue, here are a few tips to help you stay in shape during your time on campus, even if you’re in another country.

  1. Eat right, eat regularly.

    Your diet won’t necessarily dictate your level of fitness, but it can definitely help or hinder the prospect. Your body needs a certain amount of calories to function on a day-to-day basis, but where those calories come from is just as important as the number.

    For instance, you could get your daily caloric intake from a can of Coke, a burger, and some French fries. But eating anything else would be excess (hence the freshman fifteen). Or you could go for a balanced and nutritious diet including lean meats, whole grains, dairy, and fruits and vegetables.

    You’ll get a lot more food for the same calories, feel full and satisfied throughout the day, and enjoy sustained energy (instead of the spike and crash of sugar and caffeine). The latter will also compliment your fitness routine.

  2. Avoid alcohol.

    Although the occasional mixer with adult beverages is practically unavoidable if you want to get social in college, and other countries take a more lenient stance when it comes to the legal drinking age, you should try to avoid alcohol as a rule.

    This depressant not only leaves you feeling horrible long after the more appealing side effects have worn off, but alcohol is full of sugar, an empty calorie if ever there was one. If you’re trying to stay in shape in college, alcohol consumption can derail you faster than almost any other part of your diet.

  3. Get your zees.

    A lack of sleep is known to leave you feeling groggy, sluggish, and unable to focus, which is certainly bad news when it comes to your 7am calculus class. But it can also affect you physically.

    For one thing, hormones like ghrelin and leptin (which control hunger and satiety, respectively) will be knocked out of whack, making you feel hungry more often and take longer to feel full. And even if you’re exercising, inadequate sleep doesn’t allow muscles to heal after stress, potentially leading to accident and injury.

    In short, sleep is a big part of staying in shape.

  4. Get a bike.

    It can be tempting to use your discount bus pass to get around, especially in countries where public transportation is stellar. But if you have an off-campus internship, a part-time job, or a desire to explore your new city, you should think about creating your own locomotion rather than hitching a ride via mass transit.

    If you simply don’t have time for regular exercise in your busy schedule, this is a great way to get your body in motion.

  5. Tap your friends.

    Since you’re likely braving winter weather to attend your favorite overseas institution of higher learning rather than comfortably earning an online MBA California style, you’re likely facing a problem of motivation when it comes to getting fit.

    So call on your friends (who could probably also use a workout) to hit the gym, join a class, or start a weekly game of soccer (that’s football to the rest of the world) in the quad. Or maybe you could teach your soccer friends how to play American football, which can also be great exercise, as long as you’re not the quarterback.

    Exercise seems a lot less like a chore when you have friends with you, and it could just become a habit over time.

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