Whether you’re heading to college for the first time or returning after a summer at home, you’re probably excited to get back to campus life. But one thing that’s not so great about college is how limited your free time is.
Many students struggle to fit in exercise and healthy meals in the midst of studying, going to class, and socializing. But you can still stay fit in college by following these five tips:
It’s not always easy to get enough rest in college, especially with studying and a heavy course load. But when you’re tired, you’re more likely to reach for sweet or salty snacks — and less likely to exercise. What’s more, you’ll deprive your body of leptin, the hormone that signals when you should stop eating. And you’ll produce too much ghrelin, which tells your body to start (or keep) eating.
To balance these hormones and rest up, get seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Try not to nap or sleep in too often, and avoid exercising or staring at screens right before bed. When you’re well-rested, you’ll be able to make better food and fitness choices!
We know your fresh food options may be limited in college dining halls. And even if you have plenty of healthy choices, many students don’t even eat one daily serving of produce. Fruits and veggies may not seem as appealing as pizza at first, but your body will thank you for avoiding a slice. (It’s okay to eat pizza and get dessert — just in moderation!)
Always eat breakfast, too, to avoid overeating or choosing junk food later in the day. You can also stock your dorm room with granola bars, almonds, and other healthy snacks. Snacking can help you lower cholesterol and avoid weight gain, so bring nutritious treats to class with you and snack every three to four hours.
Falling asleep in class is no fun, and that’s easy to do when you’re dehydrated. That’s why it’s a great idea to bring a water bottle everywhere you go on campus to keep headaches and fatigue at bay. You can still drink coffee in the morning, but try having a full glass of water first to start your day with a hydrating beverage.
Along with drinking water throughout the day, you’ll also want to have a class between each alcoholic beverage. This will help you curb the “social calories” that can come with drinking, as well as limiting the effect alcohol will have on your body. (Another tip: If you know you’re going out for the night, don’t drink on an empty stomach! Enjoy a glass of water and some healthy carbs beforehand.)
Just as you plan your classes and outings with friends, you should schedule time to exercise. You can start by simply walking or biking to class, or joining an intramural team at your local community center. Or if you’d rather hit the gym on your own, try strength training twice a week and cardio for 2 ½ hours each week. Whether you play basketball, go for a run, or lift weights — you’ll sleep better and improve memory when you make time for regular exercise.
Working out is a great way to keep your stress levels in check, too. Penciling in “me” time every day or week will also help you manage cortisol, the hormone that makes you hungry and tells your body to store fat. Other ways to relieve stress include doing yoga, praying or meditating, and limiting your caffeine.
Whether you’re tired of the campus gym, or you just want to explore the community, your local YMCA is a great place for college students. You’ll have a space to make new friends off campus, and many Ys even offer a discounted rate for young adults.
With a young adult Y membership, you can enjoy:
It’s not always easy to make time for exercising and healthy eating, but it’s always worth it. By following these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to staying fit in college!
The Lafayette Family YMCA is a community dedicated to healthy living and social responsibility. For more fitness tips and to stay up to date about YMCA events, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, or visit our website here.