Healthy lifestyle requires small changes

Alright, this statement may not really be true but many of the lifestyle habits we take up in college are unhealthy. You struggle to stay awake in class because you only slept three hours the night before. Fast food wrappers litter the counter. Your waist line is expanding while your bank account is slimming down. You knew you shouldn’t have put that paper off for so long and now you have just 24 hours to write it. However, you also have to go to your other classes, go to practice and do laundry because you’re down to the ugly underwear you only wear when it’s time to do laundry.

It’s no secret that college is stressful and for many of us our personal health isn’t high on the list of priorities. But life, from what I’m told, doesn’t get any easier after college. If you don’t take the steps now to make a healthy lifestyle your habit, it isn’t going to be any easier in the future.

We have all been lectured over and over again about the importance of diet and exercise. Even though this is information we all know, there are many of us who don’t follow any of the advice. We need our bodies to be in top working order if we expect to do well in our classes and activities. The better care we take of our physical well being the better work we will do overall.

Let’s start with what we put in our bodies. Many of us eat in the cafeteria on a daily basis. There we are met with French fries, cheeseburgers, pizza and unlimited soda. It’s unrealistic to think that you can avoid these foods completely. Sometimes they are the only things that look, well—edible. There are small things you can do to maneuver around the food in the cafeteria keeping your health in mind.

Eat a salad instead of fries a few times a week. Grab an apple instead of a cookie. Switch out one of your glasses of Dr. Pepper for regular H2O. Making just one healthy substitution each meal will make you feel better. Fatty, greasy foods can slow you down and make you feel tired. Eating less of them may help you stay awake for that class you have right after lunch.

Keeping in mind the fact that food gives you energy, what better way to wake yourself up for that 8 a.m. class than eating breakfast? And no, that can of soda and a Poptart does not count. All it takes is about five minutes before class to fix and eat a bowl of cereal and then you’re on your way to a good morning.

Unless you’re an athlete, it can be very hard to fit exercise into your routine. It seems like you’re always too tired, the gym is intimidating or it’s not really nice enough to go outside. If you spend one hour on Facebook you will burn about 65 calories. That’s almost the same amount that you would burn if you would go on just a 15 minute walk.

More important than burning calories is the effect that exercise has on your mind. It seems contradictory, but exercise energizes you. In the middle of the afternoon when all you really want to do is nap, jump up and take a short walk around campus. You’ll feel rejuvenated and your mind will be ready to focus on reading that chapter again.

It’s easy to fit little bits of exercise in everyday activities. Walk to class instead of driving. Take the climb up the 77. Instead of meeting for a snack, go walk around Island Park with your friends. The endorphins released during this little bit of exercise will put you in a better mood and give you a more positive attitude. Your friends may actually want to spend time with you again because you won’t be such a grump.

And finally, the hardest barrier for college students to break through: getting enough sleep.

There are late nights sometimes that just can’t be helped but most of the time it is within our control to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. Better time management skills would free up a lot of our time in the evening. Get some homework done earlier in the day instead of Facebook stalking that guy you met at the party last weekend. Sleep gives your mind a chance to rest and retain information that you’ve absorbed through the day. You’ll do better work if you get more sleep because your mind will be sharper and you’ll remember more details from class.

College is always going to be stressful, but by doing a few little things you can improve your health and happiness. College is, after all, supposed to be fun.