How To Stay Healthy In College

    For many people, going to college is their first time away from home. All your life, you’ve had forms of physical education to keep you active during the day. But when you’re in college, you will most likely only need 1 or 2 P.E. classes during your entire college career. If you spend the typical 4 years in college, that’s not very much P.E. And if you spend more than 4 years, then your percentage of physical activity is probably going to be pretty low.

    You’ve probably heard of the myth of the Freshman 15. Supposedly, first-year college students gain about 15 pounds during their freshman year. This can come from any number of factors: not walking to class, eating more, drinking more soda, and so on. Whatever the case, you probably don’t want to gain that much weight in one year!

    Here are some tips and tricks for keeping healthy when you don’t have a P.E. teacher breathing down your neck.

    Portion Control

    Probably not your favorite words to read! When you are in charge of your own nutrition for the first time, you may not know just how much to eat at each meal.

    Most colleges provide a meal plan option, but most of those end with you eating way more than you normally would, just because you want to get your money’s worth. And trust me: they’re pretty pricey, so you’ll almost certainly end up eating as much as you can once you’ve shelled out the money.

    Many colleges require freshmen (and even sophomores sometimes) to get meal plans, so you’ll need to figure out how to manage what works for you and what does not. For starters, if you’re forced to get a meal plan, pick the smallest, cheapest one that you are allowed to choose. A lot of meal plans end up costing double what you would have spent on food otherwise, so it benefits you to spend as little as possible on it.

    The one good thing about meal plans is that they help you with portion control. Even if you don’t purchase the meal plan itself, you can still purchase value meals that are associated with the plans. There will typically be a little, separate menu that has one or two value meals. These meals come with a drink, an entree, and maybe even a side. They’re a better deal than buying a drink and an entree separately, and even if they’re not, they come in very specific portion sizes–generally, moderate to small ones.

    The value meals themselves help with portion control, because you feel less inclined to buy more items. That’s just food psychology!

    If value meals aren’t offered, then it’s up to you to get a look at how much food each option provides. Once you know how much food you’re getting, you can pay attention to how full you get. One good method is to eat until you are 80% full. At that point, you feel satisfied enough to stop eating (and thus avoid overstuffing), and it allows for digestion to do its thing. So experiment!

    Portion control will help you stop yourself from eating way too much food–and thus gaining way too much weight.

    Exercising Even When You Have Homework

    If you can, walk or bike to class! If you’re commuting with, say, an hour-long drive), it may not be feasible, though. But if you live on campus (as many schools require you to for your first–and sometimes second–year), you absolutely should make sure to walk or bike to your classes. The bus may be tempting, but it is by no means a reliable source of transportation. Remember: other people will want to get on the bus, too. There may not be room for you, and by the time you find out, there’s no way you can get to class on time.

    Walking to class lets you get some exercise, burn some calories, and soak up some beautiful sunshine. When you’re not too busy, walk around campus and keep an eye on how long it takes you to get from point A to point B. Once you know that, you can plan ahead!

    Since you’re not going to be in class 24/7, what else should you do to get your exercise?

    For one thing, you can just take a walk! Walking around campus just for the sake of it will bring you to new places and paths you didn’t know about. Plus, you never know who or what you might see! Maybe you’ll run into an old friend or see a cute animal. And if you need a little more motivation, pick up Pokémon Go or other walking-based apps.

    Most campuses will also have a gym that is free to use if you’re a current student.

    But really, who has time for that? You have homework and studying to do, right?

    If you have a bunch of studying to do, then you should bring it with you to the gym! Find a place on the treadmill where you can set up your books and notes–use a clipboard to hold everything together if you have to! You can do pushups with your notes and book on the floor in front of you, too.

    Another thing you can do is alternating between homework and small exercises. Do 5 crunches after you finish a homework problem, for example. Read 2 pages of boring material? Do a set of burpees. It’ll help you get up and moving and will help you feel less like all you’re doing is homework.

    Stephanie Power
    Stephanie Power
    Dr. Stephanie Power is a plastic surgeon based in Toronto, Canada. She maintains a busy private practice in the Yorkville neighbourhood.

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