College is an exciting time in a student’s life — a movement toward adulthood and its unique freedoms. Along with the privilege of greater freedom, however, comes greater responsibility, including caring for your own health for what may be the first time. Do you know how to stay healthy while away at school? What steps should you take to stay well?
To help answer these questions, here’s a look at some of the top tips to know in order to care for your body while in college:
1. Watch what you eat. Your diet plays a major role in how you feel day to day, but when you’re busy with a heavy class load, a hectic social calendar and other new activities, you might be tempted to grab whatever is fastest and easiest — even if it’s a candy bar. That’s why you need to decide now to prioritize a balanced diet. One great way to do this is by choosing to make more of your own food. When you shop for your own groceries and make simple, healthy meals at home, you can better control what you eat.
2. Drink lots of water. When you lead a busy lifestyle, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Keep a re-usable water bottle with you, drink often and fill it up at drinking fountains on campus in order to keep refreshing your body’s water supply.
3. Stay active. Exercise is about much more than losing weight. The truth is, getting your body moving is important for everything from mental clarity to emotional stability. Whether you participate in pickup sports, join a gym or spend a big chunk of time each day walking all over campus, stay active.
4. Locate your nearest health clinic. Maybe you have an awful migraine from studying all night, or think you may have the flu. It’s important to know where the closest urgent care center or health clinic is in order to maintain optimal health. Your college will likely have this information on hand.
5. Get your sleep. When you’re facing high-pressure deadlines, upcoming tests or the opportunity to party all night, it’s all too easy to miss out on sleep in college — but don’t make this mistake! Missing sleep can mess with your brain function and increase headaches or even weight gain. Instead, try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
6. Skip the drugs, drinks and smoking. When you want to stay healthy, choose to avoid drinking, drugs and smoking, all of which can damage your body over time. Skipping these substances helps reduce your risks for various diseases — both now and in the future.
7. Limit sugar and caffeine. Think chugging energy drinks or soda will give you the extra boost you need? Think again. As much as possible, skip these stimulants that typically make you crash a few hours after your temporary high.
8. Protect yourself in the sun. Heading to the beach with friends on spring break may be a college cliché, but it’s a fun one. Whenever you’re soaking in sunshine, however, make sure you take protective measures. Wear sunscreen, and re-apply it regularly. Likewise, skip the tanning beds completely as they can increase your skin cancer risks.
9. Have fun. There’s no denying stress is bad for your body, so do yourself a favor and find things to enjoy in college. Just as important as studying for tests and sticking to a budget is making time to unwind and relax. Whether it’s getting out with your friends for coffee or going for a walk, make time to de-stress. It’s one of the best things you can do for your health.
When you’re young, you might not always feel the urgency for taking care of your health — but your college years are the perfect time to implement healthy habits that continue for the rest of your life! Set good patterns today so you can enjoy maximum energy and mental clarity well into the future.
This article was contributed by guest author Dr. Abhijit Shinde.