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4 Ways to Stay Healthy: A Guide for Busy College Students

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College is stressful in more ways than one. For many young adults, it’s the first time they’re living on their own, which means they have to cook, clean, workout, sleep and handle stress without their parents present. To top that off, students have to manage deadlines and coursework. If you don’t have them already, now’s the time to establish the following wellness practices for college.

1. Healthy Diet

If you’re a parent and you want to establish healthy eating tips for your kids at college early, ask them to write in a diet journal. Mindless eating can contribute to unhealthy weight gain through liquid calories, junk food, or not enough portion control. In fact, students gain an average of 3-10 pounds during their first years of college due to unhealthy eating habits and stress.

The following habits often contribute to significant weight gain:

  • Scarfing down food due to time constraints
  • Lack of attention to serving sizes and ingredients
  • Eating too many snacks during study sessions
  • Eating out unhealthy foods instead of cooking

Students who keep a nutrition diary will soon notice they are likely:

  • Drinking their calories in the form of soda, ice teas, lattes, juices, and alcohol
  • Not eating enough fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and antioxidants
  • Eating at a restaurant that offers more than the recommended serving size

It’s essential to drink enough water throughout the day, as that can make you feel less hungry and more awake. Eating healthy foods, including fibrous foods, will contribute to healthy digestion. Finally, avoid eating out whenever possible. You’ll save money and eat better.

Side view outdoor autumn portrait of young student holding books looking to college.

2. Sleep and Relaxation

Adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night to ensure proper rest for their minds and bodies. It’s vital to relax an hour before bedtime by turning off your phone, making a to-do list, stretching, and drawing a bath.

You can make your room more comfortable by:

  • Investing in comfortable bedding, a new mattress, and a better pillow
  • Cooling your room to the optimal sleeping temperature (60-67°F)
  • Making your bed a sleep-only zone, so you don’t associate work with sleep
  • Avoid substances that provide a lower-quality sleep, like drugs or alcohol

If possible, do all the school work you were assigned each night before bedtime.

3. Stress Management

Chronic stress can lead to multiple health problems, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Although stress is normal, especially for a college student, it gradually moves from your head into the rest of your body.

Watch for the following stress warning signs:

  • Irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach

Practice stress-relieving techniques when you feel stressed because powering through will actually make you less productive. To cope with stress, take a quick walk around campus or your home, talk to a friend, meditate, do a deep breathing exercise, or do something you enjoy. Practicing gratitude and focusing on the positives can also improve your stress symptoms.

However, if you feel your stress can’t be managed on your own, consider talking to your friend, a parent, or a mental health professional. A therapist can help you cope, as they are a skilled, unbiased party that can monitor your progress for constant improvement.

4. Fitness and Exercise

Sedentary behavior is linked to multiple health problems, but you only need 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week to stay healthy. Add strength training into the mix, and you’re on your way to optimal health.

Here are a few ways you can exercise in college:

  • Make study breaks exercise breaks by climbing some stairs, lifting weights, or walking
  • Only do workouts you’ll enjoy, so you’re more likely to stick to your routine long-term
  • Track your progress with either an app or a diary to gain insight into calories burned

Although vigorous exercise leads to more health benefits, you don’t have to start giving it your all right away. If you’re an exercise newbie, start slow and build your intensity each week.

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