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Staying Healthy as a College Student

February 1, 2021

As we dive deeper into our classes with first exams and assignments around the corner, how can we stay healthy and maintain a healthy regime throughout the semester? As college students, we may be overwhelmed by the amount of workload that we experience in our educational programs. It is challenging for students to put their health first as some of them have a part-time or full-time job. Non-traditional students may have families to take care of while trying to attain their degree. All these added responsibilities have put our health at the bottom of the list. According to a University of California, Las Angeles  research study, people can improve their cognitive function and reduce stress by changing their daily lifestyle routine with physical exercise and healthier eating. The cognitive function was found to improve over a constant routine, and a change in minor habits can make you feel more fulfilled with added benefits of feeling more energetic. Most people already have this knowledge about healthy habits that lead to improved brain function, but many do not know how to easily incorporate this in their daily routine. There are three areas that can promote personal development in our everyday life, and these include exercise, nutrition and sleep.

Exercise Regime

The first aspect of how to improve your health as a college student is adding at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine. Idaho State offers all students access to a recreational center that is open until 10 pm during the week. This is a great opportunity to join a fitness class such as yoga, spinning, weight training, etc. If you are starting an exercise routine by yourself and not sure where to start, it is important to add a form of cardiovascular exercise as this increases your heart rate, respiration and raises blood flow throughout the body. Find at least 30 minutes throughout the day to go for a walk or jog outside. If it is too cold, use the equipment at the recreational facility such as the stepper, treadmill or elliptical. Sometimes we may not have time to get ready and go to the recreational center as this could take an hour out of our day, but in enforcing a consistent routine, on the days that are extremely busy, take 10 minutes to participate in a home exercise plan including full-body exercises such as squats, push-up, jumping jacks, etc. There are plenty of home-workouts that you can follow along on YouTube. Another way of fitting an exercise routine into your lifestyle is joining an intramural sport or taking a sports class at Idaho State. Please use the link provided to see the intramural sports that you can still sign-up for this spring https://www.isu.edu/camprec/intramurals/. It is important to find an exercise routine that is enjoyable for you to maintain consistency that will be enforced into your daily habits. 

Nutrition

It is well-known that nutrition can improve performance in the classroom as well as lead a balanced lifestyle. Every college student knows the difficulty of being conscious of what we are fueling our bodies with daily along with the busy schedules that we have. The challenges include sticking to a meal plan, cooking and moving away from the convenience of fast food. There is nothing wrong with a trip through the fast-food drive thru occasionally, but this should be in moderation. We are allowed to eat the foods we enjoy; however, we need to make sure that we are fueling our bodies with a variety of healthy food groups to improve our cognitive function throughout the day. Always set goals for your health and make sure you add foods that have high nutritional value such as high vitamin content. Easy ways of improving your nutrition are adding a fruit or vegetable with every meal. Cutting out the soda products and drinking a gallon of water every day. A lot of college students are accustomed to skipping breakfast in the morning. Breakfast gives you the ability to function more efficiently throughout the day. An easy way of adding a nutritional breakfast that will take a few minutes is making a breakfast smoothie. All you need is old-fashioned oats, fruit of your choice, milk, yogurt and peanut-butter (optional). This is one quick and easy way to change your  daily habit that will improve your health. Some nutritional food groups and vitamins that you may not be adding include, whole grains such as granola bars, lean proteins (soy plant-based foods if vegan or vegetarian), fats including Omega 3 and vitamin B-12 that is known to improve energy levels and focus. Students will tend to go back to their old eating routine during exam week where they are more stressed, but nutrition is more important during these weeks to maintain improved brain function. 

Sleep 

Finally, the third area of creating g a healthier lifestyle is maintaining a sleep schedule that includes 6-8 hours of sleep daily. Probably one of the most challenging areas of development to monitor as a college student as there are assignments due every week and must stay up late at night just to maintain the deadlines. Sleep is disrupted due to the overwhelming workload and stress that students face, however the less sleep they get, the less efficient they are in a learning environment. According to AASM, students that get less sleep throughout the semester may have a negative impact on their grades. Ways in which students can improve their sleep is not eating within an hour of going to bed, get up as soon as you wake up in addition of not using your phone before bed, avoiding caffeine (supplement with B-12 vitamin in mornings) in the afternoons/evening and switching off technological devices once going to bed. 

These three areas when applied simultaneously with one another will help your overall energy and performance throughout the day. Remember, it is difficult to make a drastic change to your daily habits, so start off slowly with a schedule tailored to your health and nutrition that can be maintained as the most important aspect of these three areas is to maintain a routine that becomes second nature to the habits in your daily life. 

Reference

University of California - Los Angeles. "Simple Lifestyle Changes May Improve Cognitive Function And Brain Efficiency." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 May 2006.

Importance of Sleep & Effects of Sleep Deprivation on College Students. (2020, January 27). Retrieved January 31, 2021, from https://aasm.org/college-students-getting-enough-sleep-is-vital-to-academic-success/