To many college students, nutrition and exercise may seem unimportant, especially as academics are prioritized over creating healthy habits. Research shows that by the time they graduate, 70% of students gain weight and body fat. This weight gain is attributed mainly to unhealthy habits like late-night studying, poor nutrition and lack of activity. Implementing healthy behaviors can help students avoid the most common health concerns such as lack of sleep, poor eating habits and increased stress. With proper nutrition, physical fitness, stress management and quality sleep, students are able to find their best selves – physically, mentally and academically.
“Establishing healthy habits early in life can lead to good lifelong habits and promote overall, long-term wellness,” said Dr. Alan Dennington, chief medical officer at TimelyMD. “The quality and amount of sleep that a student gets have repeatedly shown to be important factors in maintaining health. What you put into your body has both short- and long-term effects on your physical well-being, and research has consistently shown the link between exercise and improved physical and mental health.”
As institutions continue to make plans for the upcoming semester in response to COVID-19, some students will return to classes on campus, continue with online courses from home or participate in a hybrid program. No matter the choice, students can incorporate these tips for staying healthy in college and beyond.
- Listen to your body. When something doesn’t feel right (mentally, emotionally or physically) acknowledging it is the first step to overcoming. Use the campus resources available to you to seek support, if needed.
- Stay hydrated. Staying properly hydrated with water is just as important as eating healthy. A good habit is to always have water with you wherever you go. Avoid sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages, which can cause spikes in blood sugar that can increase hunger.
- Practice healthy sleep habits. Eight hours is the recommended amount of sleep per night. The quality of your sleep impacts mental clarity, blood pressure and immunity. Sleeping less than six hours can affect your hormone levels and metabolism.
- Exercise and stay active. Deep breathing, muscular exertion and regular movement can help improve your well-being, immunity and focus.
- Eat healthy meals and snacks. Adopting healthy eating habits involves making mindful decisions and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. If you have a long day of class and studying ahead, make sure you have healthy, nutritious and protein-rich snacks on hand. These types of foods and snacks help optimize your brain and body, and can help minimize the stress that comes with hunger and low energy.
- Prioritize stress management. Stress is normal, but living with it constantly is unhealthy and can become debilitating to your well-being. Long-term stress can contribute to obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. Utilize campus resources for mental health care (like in-person counseling and emotional support via telehealth) to ensure that stress doesn’t stand in the way of your health and academic performance.
Health and wellness looks different for each person. Each student needs to define what well-being looks like to them — both socially and emotionally. This can begin with self reflection and identifying the biggest struggles or obstacles that a student experiences. Additionally, talking to a health coach can help a student to develop strategies to overcome bad habits and obstacles. Once a plan is in place, students should identify college resources to help form and reinforce healthy habits.
To help college students create strategies for and maintain a healthy lifestyle, TimelyMD recently introduced Health Coaching to our growing menu of services that support the physical and mental health of college students. Since many students lack the knowledge and strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle, this service provides a way for them to stay on track with nutrition, exercise, stress management and weight loss for a comprehensive wellness approach. Health coaches are available in all 50 states, seven days a week, at no cost to students. Guidance from health coaches is designed to supplement what many campus well-being programs offer, empowering students to adopt new lifestyle behaviors and helping them prevent chronic diseases by making healthier choices. Sessions will address exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, sleep habits, weight management and body image.
“Students don’t always know exactly how they should be eating, sleeping, or exercising,” said Dr. Dennington. “Speaking with an expert to help coach them on how they can reach their personal wellness goals can help get them on the right track.”
TimelyMD is focused on improving the health of student populations via telehealth, and adding Health Coaching expands that offering. Our programs optimize clinic resources and support clinic staff in delivering quality care to the right student at the right time. Contact us to learn how your school can provide Health Coaching to your students.