With a plethora of other responsibilities and a limited budget, college students often fail to live a healthy lifestyle. However, some sacrifices are necessary, and college students ought to make them in order to ensure their success in college and beyond.
The following tips outline ways students can live a consistently healthy lifestyle, while also taking into consideration the time and money constraints present.
It is common for college students to stay up into the wee hours of the morning, either because they didn’t manage their time well and need to study or complete homework, or because they are socially interacting with their peers. Unfortunately, with the availability of caffeine, students don’t think this is a problem. However, there is no good substitute for sleep, and sleep deprivation can lead to serious long term health defects. For example, sleep deprivation has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. According to research conducted by the University of Alabama, about 60 percent of college students get insufficient REM sleep.
In order for students to get an adequate amount of sleep, they need to prioritize sleep over parties, social media, etc. Additionally, students can improve the quality of their sleep by limiting their caffeine, reducing alcohol consumption and reducing phone and computer usage at night.
Being in college, the most convenient foods tend to be processed and full of simple carbohydrates. Unfortunately, these foods, though accessible and especially tasty, are not healthy for the human body and are not good substitute for other food groups.
“Studies indicate that many young adults are not consuming adequate servings of fruits and vegetables,” Jenna Heller, registered dietician at ASU, said.
“I will often recommend that students aim to consume at least one serving of produce with each meal, as well as at least one other food group. Instead of skipping breakfast, for example, a latte and a banana can actually provide a surprising amount of protein, calcium and potassium.”
Preparing meals ahead of time is one way students can ensure they aren’t tempted to eat processed foods.
“I recommend that when students shop, they plan ahead for the types of busy days when they may not necessarily be able to consume a from-scratch meal, and select some nutrient-dense foods that are easy to grab-and-go or can be prepared in minutes,” Heller said.
“Put the fuel in when you need it — which is during your busy day — and this will also set you up to select a healthier meal later.”
Exercise not only keeps students’ bodies fit and prevents the development of various diseases, but it also stimulates the brain. According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois with mice, cognitive brain function is improved with exercise. This is especially important for students who are learning large sums of information and taking a variety of tests.
“It's important to note that regardless of what is changing on the outside, exercise is so beneficial to our physical health and to our mental health as well,” Heller said.
“Studies link adequate physical activity to improved self-esteem, reduced risk for depression, reduced stress, and better sleep. Some studies also indicate that exercise can help individuals to problem-solve more creatively.”
Although it is difficult to fit exercise into their busy schedules, college students need to make time for it. According to the Mayo Clinic, you only need 75 minutes of rigorous exercise a week, which is reasonable and perfectly manageable if students were to sacrifice other activities.
Although it seems pretty straightforward, hydration is a very important aspect to one’s health. However, according to Boston College, two-thirds of Americans don’t drink enough water.
Although most college students know this, they fail to hydrate enough and thus jeopardize their health. This trend of dehydration is particularly prevalent due to the copious amount of alcohol consumed by college students.
A common trend in college is the use of recreational drugs. According to USA Today, about 5.4 million college students in the U.S. admit to binge drinking or using drugs recreationally about once a month.
Unfortunately, many of these drugs have addictive qualities and other health effects that could inhibit students’ success in school and their career. For example, the use of the stimulant cocaine can lead to a change in the neurotransmitter balance within a person’s brain. This can lead to severe dependence and could lead to depression.
In other words, students ought to limit their drug use or eliminate recreational drugs from their lives entirely.
College is a time to establish one’s independence and focus on one’s academic performance; however, that does not mean one’s health has to be jeopardized.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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