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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Healthy Lifestyles

Don't Neglect Your Body as You Develop Your Mind

Establish Life-Long Habits at a Young Age

-- By Dave Heilmann, Staff Writer
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For college and high school students, fall brings a lot of activity. Between fun stuff (like football games, parties, dances) and much harder things (like midterms and research papers), it may seem like there is not much time left to exercise and eat right. It is not uncommon for students to let their health slide. Before you know it, it's January 1 and you're trying to figure out how to lose 20 pounds before going on Spring Break!

There is a better way to do this. By establishing some simple, healthy nutrition and fitness habits, you can avoid gaining weight and even have more energy for school and everything else.

On the nutrition side, focus simply on making the right choices. This can make all the difference. For example:
  • Eating a good breakfast will give you energy well into the day and will cut down on cravings later.
  • For late-night study snacks, try fruit or nuts instead of pizza or potato chips. By preparing ahead of time, you’re less likely to resort to unhealthy fast food when you’re in a pinch, and the healthier foods you eat will stabilize your energy levels throughout the day (and night).
  • Drink plenty of water. Water helps your body remove waste and even helps you lose weight by metabolizing fat. It also helps reduce hunger. Try to keep a water bottle with you all day and drink that in class instead of high-calorie drinks like soda.
It can be hard to find time for fitness. Some options include:
  • Use your school’s facilities with a friend. Most schools now have comprehensive fitness centers, so you might as well take advantage of them while they’re free (or close to it). Finding someone to go with will make you accountable so you’ll be more likely to keep going. Also, the gym can be a great place to meet new people.
  • Walk as much as you can. If you're on your way to lunch or class and have the time, walk instead of driving. Even if you’re running late, increase your speed. Not only will you make it to class on time, you’ll also be getting aerobic benefit.
  • Take breaks from studying to do some quick exercises for refreshment. Jumping jacks, crunches, push-ups, lunges, climbing stairs, or walking around the building can all be done in just a few minutes. Exercise breaks will also make your mind more alert and your studying more effective.
  • Play a sport. You don't have to be part of the school's team. Anyone can play pick-up games or participate in intramurals or club sports.
Remember, don't get down on yourself if you miss a week of exercising or need to eat pizza a few nights in a row. School may be a stressful time, but it can also be the best time of your life—and one of your healthiest. Just try to remember the good habits presented here and other ones you learn along the way.

As you practice them more, you’ll be more consistent. Plus you’ll have plenty of energy and reduce the stress that comes with school. High school and college are times when healthy habits are made, so put forth the effort now and reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life.
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Member Comments

  • May I add that students need to get plenty of rest.....there is so much going on at this time of life, I remember those days - studying, cramming, parties, social events. Sleep is just as important as exercise. It has been a long long time since I was a student living at school but I remember it well. I was overweight when I got there but in my freshman year I lost around 40 pounds....I walked or biked everywhere and started making healthier nutritional choices. It can be done! - 8/24/2013 9:05:42 AM
  • I've been thinking about this, because in Sept I start university for the first time to finish my last 2 years of college. It will be overwhelming and very busy. I've been exercising great but that's because I took a year off to improve myself. So I'm thinking I will walk to the school, and every morning before school get my exercise the heck over with. Because if I try to exercise after school my mind will be full of other things I need to do. So my run and my weight lifting as usual. Even with nothing to do, sleep has been terribly challenging. So I hope I can learn to wake up early. - 8/24/2012 6:28:18 PM
  • KAELA_19
    Good article. I always park really far away from my class in something called the "overflow parking lot" reserved for the first couple days of classes when there is an overflow of students, and it takes me a good 10-15 minutes to walk to class. I park there throughout the entire semester, not only is it good for walking but when leaving the school I don't have to go around a whole bunch of traffic to get out of the main parking lot :] - 4/15/2012 11:41:49 AM
  • Great article, though I wish it provided links to resources for things like reducing stress without food, how to keep your portions down when your significant other is a bottomless pit, why over-indulging on alcohol causes weight gain, learning to track food, etc. I also wish it provided a warning about not justifying study treats as a merely-temporary bad habit. That was my downfall. I had a very basic education in the importance of eating healthy and exercising, but I hadn't learned to read labels and actually track my food intake. I ate what I wanted from the (very tasty) cafeterias, including huge salads that I *thought* were healthy at the time (because it's salad!) but I know now were simply loaded with calories. I drank plenty of high-calorie alcohol. I treated myself to ridiculous desserts while studying for exams or writing papers - because hey, it was just temporary. I wouldn't eat that much raw cookie dough NORMALLY. I wouldn't eat so much Ben & Jerry's once the paper was turned in! I wouldn't buy a microwave Stouffer's lasagna every night for dinner - just until the exam was over. It was just temporary! But the calories WEREN'T. Additionally, the difference between an active college life (dance team, walking to classes, etc.) and my first year in the real world was a killer. I didn't have access to a gym, didn't get any exercise apart from walking to the bus stop to go to work...and I still didn't understand portion sizes and label-reading. So maybe an article about transitioning into the real world would be good, if one doesn't already exist here (it might, I'm new to reading articles). Finally, grad school added more weight because I ate to soothe my stress, and because I had a skinny boyfriend with a huge appetite and I figured, if he could eat so much, I could get away with eating just a little bit less than him. SO DUMB. I've had to work hard to lose 70 pounds I never should have gained in the first place!

    Thanks for offering some advice to people who are still young enough to take preventive action so they don't go ... - 9/27/2011 6:16:51 PM
  • Just saying, the bunch of people commenting, "oh, it really wasn't hard for me, because I'm perfect" need to keep it to themselves. While every school and person is different, the vast majority of people gain weight because of stress, EVEN IF they are eating correctly. This is due to evolutionary chemicals that tell your body to store food when stressed, because your body thinks you are starving. If you add that even if you're eating "right" your body may be missing some nutrients, especially if your body is saying to store food. As for me, I have been struggling with weight my whole life, and am in college. So this article is for "me." Those out of college, this article is not for "you." (The teacher is the exception) - 9/27/2011 12:25:00 PM
  • Why does it all have to be so hard? I don't remember coming up and everyone and I do mean everyone is so focusted on diet and exercise. It seems like a few people were but not everyone. It gets so overwhelming. Why can't we just live our lives like the good old days and if we gain a few pounds during college or whatever, we do what we need to do to get it off. We are all so obsessed with it all. It just gets to be too much. Always thinking about what we are eating and what we are drinking and never being the size we want to be. What ever happened to Eat Drink & be Merry? What? - 11/8/2010 11:20:50 AM
  • My school had this meal plan where you could basically get anything you want, anytime, so long as it's kinda-yucky cafeteria food.

    Anyway! Bacon and crossaints for breakfast, fries, pizza, and soda for lunch, and dessert every night really taught me a big lesson in self-control... a 45-pound lesson! The shirts I'ld bought at the beginning of my freshman year fit me like a sausage tube.

    Fortunately, I did a lot of hard work that summer, and even more fortunately, in my junior year my friend pointed me towards Sparkpeople. Not only have I kept those 45 pounds off, I've lost an additional 25!

    What I'm trying to say is: college students! Don't work too hard or eat too much! Making time for a good diet and good exercise actually SAVES you time because you can work more efficiently when you feel good about yourself. - 9/27/2010 2:12:39 PM
  • FIDGERT
    I went to undergrad first two years at a school with required PE and no food options besides the cafeteria (rural GA)...got down to 125 and was eating cinnabon once a week at the mall to try and keep some weight on! By the time I got through senior year at main campus, I was up to 150 from going with my dieting roommate out on her treat nights. At grad school now, finally starting to get the weight back off, though I don't know if I should keep any of the clothes from when I was at 125 as that doesn't seem like an attainable goal anymore. - 6/13/2010 12:06:50 AM
  • Unfortunately, I could never get it going in college. Exercise was such a TERRIBLE Chore. Gratefully, at nearly 45, I can NOW say I really enjoy it! - 10/9/2009 9:26:48 AM
  • Unfortunately, I could never get it going in college. Exercise was such a TERRIBLE Chore. Gratefully, at nearly 45, I can NOW say I really enjoy it! - 10/9/2009 9:26:48 AM
  • I must admit this has got to be one of the GREATEST articles I have read on SparkPeople thus far. I wish that this type of information, support and encouragement was made available when I was in high school. If it was perhaps I would not be struggling with issues of being obese as an adult. I was never skinny I have alway been overweight as early as I can remember, but if this type of information, support and encouragement was made available to me I may have had a better chance to make changes as earlier in life weight loss is easier than it is for those of us 40+ All I have to say is KUDOS TO THE WRITER OF THIS ARTICLE. - 9/28/2009 10:38:40 PM
  • I didn't really gain any weight while I was at school. I live in a rural area where you need to drive to get anywhere, so I wouldn't get a lot of exercise while I was living at home. When I went to university, I walked everywhere. I ended up losing 10 pounds my first year. - 4/10/2009 7:40:39 AM
  • LSORBS
    One of the hardest things for me is knowing how to balance everything: eat, workout, study. It's comforting to know others have the same issues! Practice makes perfect, right? - 4/2/2009 10:13:30 PM
  • THANK U...i needed this now cuz i just missed my exercise yesterday cuz i was studying for an exam - 3/26/2009 6:57:52 AM
  • I definitely appreciate, and agree with, this article. I'm in my 3rd year of college and I gained roughly 20 lbs my freshman year, despite walking to class every day. I lost that weight over that summer, but my sophomore year I made a sudden move to a different state and school and ended up gaining over 30 lbs! Not fun at all. Since I've started living a healthy lifestyle this semester I've implemented pretty much all of this tips and I'm seeing a HUGE difference (both in weight loss and in energy and school productivity--som
    ehow it's helped me not procrastinate so much!). So if your in high school or college (or really in any stage of life) I highly highly HIGHLY recommend following these tips. They make all the difference in the world. - 3/3/2009 10:36:24 PM