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Living on your own for the first time can make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle in college. It’s easy to be tempted by your surroundings and give in to the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.
After years of being forced to eat your vegetables, all of a sudden you have the option to eat whatever you want. Instead of going to soccer practice, you can just watch TV all afternoon. Bad habits that many college students get into can be taxing on both their physical and emotional health.
Whether you’re trying to avoid gaining the freshman-15 or just want to start building a foundation of healthy habits, these tips will help you achieve your goals.
Now here are my top 10 tips if you’re trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle in college.
1. Eat Well-Rounded Meals
It’s so important to make sure you get the proper nutrients for your body. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables that will give you long-lasting energy throughout the day.
Eating enough food at dinner is especially important, because it will keep you from late-night snacking. Since college students generally stay up later, whether studying or going out, you’ll be more tempted to grab a convenient but unhealthy snack in the middle of the night.
2. Go to Bed at a Reasonable Hour
Getting enough sleep will make you more energized and alert for your classes. It will also help prevent you from getting sick by allowing your body to restore itself. Going to bed at a reasonable hour will make it way easier to wake up for your morning classes the next day.
If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep, here are some useful tips:
- Don’t consume caffeine after 4pm. Although you may only feel the effects for a few hours, caffeine stays in your body for much longer, which can make it hard to sleep.
- Stop taking long naps. The perfect power nap to refresh your energy is actually only 20 minutes long! If you sleep too long, you’ll end up feeling groggy. Set an alarm before you take a nap to make sure you wake up.
- Wake up early on the weekends. Many college students use the weekend to catch up on sleep. However, it’s better to wake up at the same time every day, that way your body will adjust to it. If you sleep in, you may have some trouble falling asleep at your normal bedtime.
- Don’t exercise late at night. A decent amount of people work out at night because they can’t make time during the day. However, exercising gives you a boost of energy, so it makes it harder to fall asleep. Try working out in the morning instead!
- Avoid late-night snacking. This is a big no-no if you want to get to bed on time! Your body is not used to digesting food lying down. Especially make sure not to eat anything super sugary, or you’ll be up for hours.
3. Plan Workouts into Your Schedule
When you make your class schedule, build in a designated time for you to work out. This could be in the morning before class or a 2-hour break from classes in the afternoon.
By going out of your way to schedule a time to work out, you’ll be more obligated to actually do it. This also eliminates the excuse that you don’t have time to work out, because you’re literally planning it into your day.
Getting into a routine of working out at the same time every day (or every other day) is super helpful, and eventually it will become a habit that you don’t even have to think about.
4. Take Time for Yourself
It is so, so crucial to take care of your mental health in college. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the constant hustle that you need to be doing something productive. Also, living with a roommate, it can be hard to get any alone time.
Take a few minutes every day to just be by yourself. Write in a journal, doodle, meditate, or just lie in bed and think. Last year I came across the app Daylio, where you take a few seconds each day to record how you’re feeling and what you’ve been up to. This is a great way to take control of your emotions and figure out what effect, negative or positive, certain activities have on your mood.
5. Find a Workout Buddy
Find a friend to work out with so that you both can hold each other accountable. If you want a whole bunch of workout buddies, consider joining an intramural or club sports team.
Having a workout buddy is great because they can encourage you to exercise if you’re feeling lazy. Also, you’re more likely to go work out when someone is depending on you to show up, after all, you don’t want to disappoint them!
If the weather’s nice, you and your friend can go on a run. Otherwise, going to the gym is always an option. You can set an amount of time to both run for on the treadmill, and then do arm and ab workouts together afterwards. There are tons of short 10-minute workouts for muscular endurance and strength on Pinterest if you don’t know where to start!
6. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle in college. Drinking water will not only quench your thirst, but also boost your immune system, keep you energized, and rehydrate your skin.
Caffeine and alcohol, two things most college students depend on, can both make you dehydrated. So, it’s important to replenish the loss of fluids with a lot of water.
Carrying a water bottle at all times is a great way to encourage yourself to drink water! If you find it hard to make yourself drink water, maybe because the water in your dorm tastes metallic, try putting some MiO in it.
7. Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand
If you’re the type of person that relies on snacks throughout the day, keep some healthy options. That way, you’ll be less tempted to resort to getting something unhealthy from the vending machine. I recommend keeping a healthy snack in your backpack, for when you get super hungry between classes, as well as some snacks in your room.
I find that dried chickpeas are the perfect solution to my crunchy chip craving, and they’re also high in protein! Some other healthy snacks I like to keep around that don’t require refrigeration are granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit. Also, most schools let you take a piece of fruit (usually an apple or banana) out of the dining hall, which can make the perfect afternoon snack!
8. Walk to Class
Walking to class is probably the easiest way to maintain a healthy lifestyle in college. Skip the campus shuttle and opt to walk to classes to get your muscles moving! If you live off-campus, you can park at an exterior parking lot for the day and walk between classes.
My campus is relatively small, and on the average day I end up walking over 3 miles! When you walk to class you don’t even think about the distance, you just focus on getting to your destination. So, this is the perfect way to get a little exercise in without even thinking twice about it.
9. Take Steps to Prevent Sickness
Getting sick in college is all too easy when you’re constantly surrounded by other people. Especially during COVID-19, the last thing you want to do is weaken your immune system by catching the common cold.
Here are some steps that will help prevent you from getting sick in college:
- Wash your hands often. When you come back to your room, the first thing you should do is wash your hands. It’s also especially important to wash your hands, or at least use hand sanitizer, before you eat, since any food you touch is going straight into your mouth!
- Don’t share drinks. Sharing drinks is the easiest way to get sick in college. Just think, if everyone shares a sip of their drink with two people, it won’t be long before the whole school is sharing germs.
- Wipe down equipment at the gym. Although they’re supposed to, many people don’t wipe down gym equipment after they use it. If you don’t want transmit other people’s sweaty germs, take two seconds to wipe off any weights or equipment before you use it.
- Sanitize things that are frequently touched. Bring some Clorox wipes to wipe down light switches, door handles, your computer keyboard, your phone, or anything else you touch on a daily basis. This is especially important to do after you or your roommate gets sick.
- Get the flu shot. Believe it or not, you’re not actually required to get a flu shot in college. But your school will hopefully make it super easy for students to get one, and I highly recommend doing so for that extra protection against the flu!
- Wear a mask. During COVID-19, wearing a mask is important, even if your school doesn’t require it. Although a normal cloth mask won’t protect you from people carrying the virus, it will signal to others not to come too close. It will also encourage others to wear masks, so that you all can stay protected.
If you do end up getting sick, take care of yourself properly. This means taking the right medication, staying hydrated, not overexerting yourself, getting plenty of sleep, and seeing a doctor if it comes to that. Also, try to stay away from other people when you know you’re sick and contagious.
10. Join an Exercise Class
Similar to finding a workout buddy, joining an exercise class is a good way to hold yourself accountable for working out. This could be pilates, yoga, kickboxing, spinning—whatever type of exercise you most enjoy.
Workout classes at college gyms are super affordable compared to those in the real world. In fact, some schools may offer them for free. My school offers classes for around $5-10 per class, which is just enough to make you want to go and not waste the money you’ve already spent.
Remember, just because you do something once, doesn’t mean it will have a major positive effect on your life. In order to truly maintain a healthy lifestyle in college, you need do these things over and over again, until they become habits. For example, if you work out every day for a week but then slack off and don’t work out at all the next, you’ll be right back at square one.
Getting into a routine will help you build long-lasting habits more quickly. For example, waking up at the same time every day, eating at the same time every day, and working out at the same time every day.
Start implementing these 10 helpful tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle in college right away!