With the many responsibilities that come with the role of a college student, maintaining a healthy lifestyle may not exactly be number one on the list of priorities. Luckily, tips and small changes can make this process possible. Diane Lynch, director of health services at Seton Hall, offered her advice on how this can be done.
To get into the swing of things, four components make up a healthy lifestyle, exercise, diet, rest, and time to relax. Being aware of these things can give a person more energy, less stress, more productivity, and improve overall quality of life. “The best thing you can do for your immune system is to eat healthy, exercise, and sleep,” said Lynch.
Lynch recommends making a plate half vegetables and fruits when going to the cafeteria or when dining out, with the other half being carbs and protein, a “colorful plate.” The biggest challenge about healthy eating on campus is probably that students are eating on the run, which tends to gravitate them towards junk food. Of course as college students, it’s almost impossible to sit and plan out each meal, so when stocking up on snacks for those busy days, it is important to have healthy options available. Combinations such as apples and peanut butter, hard boiled eggs, hummus and pretzels are easy alternatives to vending machine selections. Staying well-hydrated with eight glasses of water throughout the day helps provide the body with more energy.
Another tip that Lynch suggested was enjoying the food consumed. Lynch cautions not fill up plates with distasteful foods for the sake of healthy eating. Although most students are always on the go, food should be eaten with consciousness and awareness.
Lynch also suggests eating regularly and never ignoring hunger. Eating at least every four hours keeps blood sugar stable. This routine stabilizes blood sugar and may make someone more likely to excessively snack between meals.
Staying active is key to good health habits. Lynch recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, which can also be done in intervals of ten minutes each. Exercising regularly reduces stress, increases alertness, and boosts the immune system. For those that don’t like the gym, it’s important to find what works. Many students are involved in intramural sports, others like to take walks, while others find Zumba classes more rewarding. Sophomore nursing major, Gariela Bongard, makes time for exercise at least four or five times a week. “I usually try to go in the morning before class and take a spin class every Friday,” said Bongard. Walking briskly, taking the stairs over the elevator, parking further from class can all have a significant effects over time.
There are tools that can help us be aware of our health. Human, an app that tracks steps and sets a goal of the day, helps one see activity levels. It alerts when extra steps are needed to achieve the goal. Other apps like MyPlate, monitor calorie intake and nutritional value, keeping a diet in check. Still, websites such as choosemyplate.gov provide users with valuable information on portion sizes and what to include in each meal. Students tend to push off healthy living until after graduation, with school work and grades being the number one priority at the moment. These coincide however because eating properly and exercising regularly can keep people from missing class due to being sick, as well as feeling more alert and focused. “There’s big payoff if you’re willing to put in those 30 minutes a day!
Just as staying active is important, rest and sleep also keep a body in top form. Poor sleeping habits end in poor performance. “You should probably try to get about eight hours of sleep a night,” said Lynch. It is not recommend to stay up all night and later compensate with taking naps. Bongard makes sure she gets enough sleep and is well-rested to get through her busy days of nursing classes. “I make sure I get at least eight hours a night and I never pull all-nighters for exams. If I don’t get enough sleep, I’ll never remember everything I have to know for exams,” said Bongard.
Sophomore broadcasting major, Brian Connor suggests planning a schedule to complete school work. “I plan out when I’m going to do certain assignments throughout the week so I know I’ll be able to get a decent amount of sleep each night,” said Connor.
Although the pursuit of degrees may seem more important than pursuing a healthy routine, there is no need to sacrifice one for the other. Maintaining a healthy routine increases alertness and decreases chances of getting sick and missing school. “If [students] really want to focus on doing well in school, being aware of the healthy diet and exercise does pay off, it will help their performance,” said Lynch.
Macarena Solis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org