Whether you’re an incoming first-year student, departing for an exchange program, or still haven’t shed that “freshman 15”, there are general health and fitness guidelines that all students can try to follow. If this is the first time you’ll be living on your own – especially in a new country – maintaining or improving your health can pose a challenge. But with the following advice, a good support system, and setting your own personal goals, you can keep your both your body and mind healthy as you tackle the ups and downs of college.
Exercise: College is the perfect time to start getting involved in sports or going to the gym. If you like sports but aren’t on your school’s official team, you can join a club or intramural team. Besides providing a fun and convenient way to exercise, it’s a great way to meet new people, even if there’s a language barrier.
Universities will usually offer free or low-cost exercise classes that generally welcome people of all skill levels. Popular fitness classes at U.S. schools include yoga, pilates, Zumba, cycling, and aerobics. If you want to work out at your own pace, on-campus gyms are usually free or a small fee. If you’re in a large town or city, you can join an off-campus gym and often find student discounts on memberships. And if you don’t like the time or commitment involved with joining a gym, you can try workout DVDs or one of the many smart phone fitness apps available.
Walking or running outside is a free, convenient way to not only stay active but also explore your surroundings. It’s common to see people jogging on the street in the U.S., but take the same precautions you would going for a run at home and make sure you choose safe routes. If you like to bike, you may be able to find a bike path nearby; otherwise, make sure you’re familiar with the local biking regulations.
Mental health: It’s important to maintain a healthy mind as well as a healthy body. When culture shock and reality sets in, you may feel overwhelmed. Just remember that you’ll overcome this transition by slowly easing into this new situation. Make a conscious effort to get out of your room, meet new people, and attend events. Remember, everyone else is in the same situation as you but also experiences difficulty transitioning into college in their own way.
Food and nutrition: It’s too easy to fall into the stereotypical college diet of pizza, soda, and instant noodles, but it’s important to take ownership of your eating habits and nutrition from the start. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:
1. Don’t be tempted by the “all you can eat” style dining halls; portion control is one of the most important parts for maintaining a healthy diet.
2. Don’t skip meals on a regular basis.
3. Don’t forget the most important meal of the day – breakfast! As a busy college student, you need a lot of energy to start your day.
4. Stock up on healthy snacks. By making healthy foods available and accessible, they’ll be the first thing you grab rather than junk food.
5. Cook for yourself as much as possible if you have access to a kitchen. Not only will it be healthier, but you can also save money.
6. Besides keeping you hydrated, drinking plenty of water can help boost your concentration and keep you from overeating.
7. If you’re of legal drinking age (21 in the U.S.), consume alcohol in moderation. Your college may be a big party campus, but you can still have a good time without throwing away your healthy habits on beer and liquor!
All of these health and fitness tips may seem overwhelming now, but by slowly working them into your daily routine, you’ll become healthier, more focused, and happier. Exercise can also help you manage stress, especially when you’re preparing to conquer midterms and finals and end-of-term exams. If you’re struggling to keep up a regular workout routine, schedule time in your calendar for exercising. Even though studying abroad is a new and exciting experience, don’t forget the healthy habits you maintain at home. The longer you wait to keep up with these when studying abroad, the harder it is to start again. And indulge every once in a while – you deserve it!