For every student, college is a transition period. Classes, extracurricular activities and campus involvement fill the majority of your time, which may cause you to neglect your health.
Freshman music education major Kristen Malik discovered for herself the difficulties of staying healthy at college. “Staying healthy at college isn’t the easiest thing. It’s really important to make sure you’re eating well when you can, drinking plenty of water, and getting as much sleep as possible,” she said.
Here are a few practical tips on how to stay healthy at college.
One tip is staying active. Director of Student Health Services Michelle Benson said 2.5 hours is the minimum recommended amount of physical exercise per week. “Doing something active every day really helps with your physical and mental health,” she said.
Malik said, “As a music major, it’s easy to spend all my time in practice rooms, not spend a lot of time outside or doing something active. I think one of the best ways for me to be physically and emotionally healthy is to get outside and spend some time with others.”
For student exercise and recreation, BJU provides a gym, fitness centers for both men and women, an outdoor track, an activity center and sand volleyball courts. In addition, students may participate in intramural sports through society for athletic competition.
Practice Good Hygiene
Benson recommends careful attention to hand washing and hand sanitizer use, especially after sneezing or coughing. She also advises students to wash their sheets at least once a week because doing so is healthy for the skin.
As part of BJU’s campus life plan, students should keep in mind the four W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and wipe your surfaces. Taking preventative measures mitigates the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses.
Focus on Good Nutrition
Benson reminded students to be mindful of water intake. “Women should get about two liters of water a day, and men should get about three liters,” Benson said. Using a water bottle with measurements can help you track your daily intake. Fitness trackers and smartwatches also have water-tracking widgets.
Balance Your Meals
Healthy eating is a vital component of nutrition. Nutritionist and health sciences faculty member Melanie Schell advises students not to default to the shortest dining common line, but to think about what they want ahead of time for a more balanced meal. “If your goal is to stay healthy, then those food choices do matter, and there should be a little bit more thinking and intentionality,” she said.
Schell also said you should focus on maintaining an overall healthy diet rather than feeling obligated to eat healthy every single meal. “We (nutritionists) stress the cumulative effect of lots of choices, and if most of the choices (students) are making are of a healthy nature, then they are probably going to be okay,” she said. “Make fruits, vegetables and grain choices the basis for meals, remembering that carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your diet — at least 50% — because carbohydrates (are) what give us energy.”
Schell said that culturally, people are making a bigger deal about protein than they should be. “Although protein is super important, most of us get more of it than what we need.” Schell also mentioned that protein includes things we don’t need, such as saturated fat and cholesterol. “If we can strategically choose things that are not always animal proteins and make some of those protein choices plant-based, that’s going to be healthier in the long run.”
Along with protein, adequate dairy intake is crucial as well. Schell explained that as children get older and reach their teenage and college years, they tend to replace dairy options with unhealthy alternatives such as soda. “You need those dairy choices because, as college students, you are in the peak time of your life. . . . Your bones are still growing in density until about age 30, so continuing to consume dairy is important,” she said. For those who are lactose intolerant, Schell recommends consuming small amounts of dairy you can tolerate, such as yogurt or hard cheeses, in addition to dairy alternatives.
To have a thorough understanding of what you are consuming, you should read nutrition labels. Schell said watching out for added sugars is particularly important and that as of 2018, labels now notate added sugar.
Take Your Vitamins
Along with nutrition, vitamins are also essential to staying healthy at college. Benson recommends Vitamin C and a good multivitamin. Schell explains that antioxidant vitamins support the immune system: “From the perspective of reducing illnesses, those antioxidants are good to make sure you’re getting in your diet.” She said even a glass of orange juice or a salad may help provide antioxidant vitamins.
Reinforce Good Habits
To round out healthy tips, Benson and Schell provided some practical thoughts on students’ habits and what can be done to improve them. Benson said time management is important and advises you to use free hours wisely. “I feel like there’s time in our day that we just don’t capitalize on,” she said. “None of us can escape (big projects), but try to make (late nights) not the normal, but that that would be an exception rather than the rule.”
Schell said, “The habits that you’re forming as a college student pertaining to your diet are habits that you’re going to carry into your adult life. Why not form good habits that are going to benefit you in your 40s and 50s and 60s instead of sticking with habits that you’re going to have to change later in life.”
Throughout her first semester at BJU, Malik has recognized some of her own habits she would like to change moving forward. “(The) bad habit I have fallen into that I notice the most is my sleep schedule. If I fall at all behind, I usually need a late night and early morning to get caught up,” she said.
Staying healthy at college is not always easy and takes determination and effort. However, by putting in the work now, you will thank yourself later.