7 Sustainable Health and Fitness Habits College Students Can Adopt

College is when millions of young people earn their first taste of freedom. 

But between the all-you-can-eat meal plans, no helicopter parents to report to, and endless parties, college students aren’t known for their healthy habits. 

In fact, seven in ten students gain weight while pursuing their degree, and fewer than 45% of students exercise regularly. 

How do you avoid becoming a statistic?

Simple!

These are the seven best health and fitness habits to pick up in college and bring with you into the real world.

Become a Meal Prep Expert

One of the biggest struggles for college students is time management. There aren’t enough hours in the day to juggle a full course load, study sessions, socialization, leisure time, and sleep. 

That’s why many students lean on unhealthy meal plans or fast food instead of cooking fresh meals.

But if you have a few spare hours on the weekends and your apartment has basic cooking supplies, there’s a much healthier alternative:

Meal prep.

Or cooking a week’s worth of food in a single go that you can store in the freezer until it’s time to eat. Then, pop the container in the microwave for a nutrient-rich meal any day of the week!

All you need are basic cooking tools, a refrigerator, and fresh food (i.e., green beans, black beans, chicken breast, rice). Plus, this habit will come in handy once you enter the workforce and work a steady 9-to-5.

Replace All Beverages With Water

The human body is about 60% water, and without proper hydration, the organ systems don’t perform optimally. 

The nagging headache sets in, your skin becomes dry, and you’re suddenly facing a bout of fatigue.

But dehydration can also slow down your cognitive processes. As a result, low energy, an inability to focus, and short-term memory loss can impact your GPA and complicate simple assignments. 

Soda and sports drinks do hydrate you. However, these sweetened beverages also tend to be high in calories, sugar, and even caffeine.

The best “fuel” for your body and mind?

Plain water.

The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking at least 11.5 cups a day (for women), and 15.5 cups (for men), and most people fall well short of those numbers!

Carry around an insulated flask full of water. Sip on it as a force of habit, even when you’re not thirsty. Put lemon wedges or berries into your water to add some natural flavoring — anything you need to do to make that water enticing!

Build Fitness Sessions Into Your Schedule

Some of your courses will begin at 8 AM. Others will leave you in a lecture hall until the wee hours of the night. So while a daily 12 PM workout might be unrealistic, there is enough time in your schedule to squeeze in a workout.

If you’re really committed to training, that is!

Look at any available time block in your schedule as an opportunity to train. And, when creating your weekly schedule, put training above social activities!

Visit the on-campus gym during that 30-minute gap between classes. Wake up an hour earlier to fit in a morning run on the track. Or save your workouts for the days you don’t have classes (including the weekend).

If you have a free hour before class and no assignments to do, why not do a calisthenics workout in your dorm?

Find Any Opportunity to Get Active

Between all of your college responsibilities, finding a free half-hour to do anything will be a challenge. Luckily, getting active doesn’t always have to mean lacing up your running shoes or hitting the gym.

There are dozens of ways to get active on campus:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Bike to campus/class instead of driving
  • Park further away in the student parking lot
  • Do <15-minute circuits without leaving your dorm
  • Walk the campus loop
  • Join an intramural dodgeball, basketball, or Ultimate Frisbee league

There’s no excuse for not training if there’s enough time to play Xbox or watch an episode on Netflix!

Track Your Diet & Activity Levels Daily

The one habit that’ll hold you accountable for your fitness goals is keeping track of your diet and activity levels.

On the dietary end, apps like MyFitnessPal will keep your weight and caloric intake under control. Simply log your meals (or ingredients) throughout the day to monitor how much protein you’re eating or which macronutrients you’re lacking.

A Fitbit or Apple Watch will prove helpful on the activity edge. This wearable tech will record how many steps you take per day, your average heart rate, and how many calories you burn.

Then, use the data from each of these tools to revamp your health approach. For example, if you want to lose weight, cut out 500 calories per day and walk 5,000 steps per day. Or log 10,000 steps per day to focus on heart health.

Create a Regular Bedtime Schedule

As a college student, you’ll accept any free time as an opportunity to sleep or nap. But no matter how wonky your weekly schedule is, the best way to prepare your body and mind for classes is to create a regular bedtime routine.

Do all of your classes end by 7 PM?

Return to your dorm, eat dinner, study for a few hours, and hit the hay by 10 PM. Also, even if your Tuesday classes don’t start until the afternoon, try to wake up around the same time every day.

This strategy will keep your body on a schedule that’ll keep your energy levels high while preventing restless nights. 

Ideally, you’ll want to aim for about 7–9 hours of sleep per night.

Practice Mindfulness

College can be a hectic four years and weigh on you physically and mentally. Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to rid yourself of the constant worry and simply … be. 

Live in the moment.

Find a quiet place, whether that’s your apartment when the roommate is gone or a park near campus. Silence your phone and get rid of any distractions.

Then, sit straight, breathe, and appreciate the world around you. Take deep breaths as you watch the birds soar over the treeline or listen to the bubbling creek nearby. 

When you notice your focus drifting, recenter yourself to the here and now. For all of the advice on physical health above, mental health is just as essential to a chaotic college student’s life. Even five or ten minutes of mindfulness will bring a sense of calm and focus back to the real world.


Conclusion

Don’t forget to take advantage of every healthy-conscious opportunity that falls at your feet.

If your study session ends at 8 PM, call it a night by 9 o’clock. When you have $10 to spend at the food court, look for whole, colorful options. Or bike to campus instead of driving whenever possible.

The more these habits become like second nature during the next four years, the more likely they’ll follow you into adulthood.

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Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Helix24 to help them with their online marketing.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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