This Fall I Want to Make Healthier Choices

Was staying healthy a struggle for you last year? All that could change this year, this semester.

Maintaining your physical and mental health in college means more than avoiding the “Freshman 15.” In fact, developing good habits at school involves dealing with all the temptations that can impair your performance: all-nighters, pre-test stress, excess caffeine, and dining hall desserts, to name a few. Make your own pledge to stay healthy this year with these tips:

1. Create Incentives

Multiple studies have linked incentives with establishing healthier habits. For instance, participants in a study by the Mayo Clinic earned 20 dollars when they met monthly weight loss targets, and were required to pay 20 dollars if they fell short. Nearly 40 percent more people met their goals compared to the control group that received no incentive — and those that got paid lost more weight on average.

Try incentivizing your way to healthy choices. If you tend to skip breakfast, put a dollar away when you eat a full meal every morning. Reward yourself with a fancy coffee today if you drank eight glasses of water yesterday. Watch an episode of your favorite TV show with your roommate before getting to bed on time. Incentives could motivate you to succeed and keep you accountable for healthy living.

2. Take Shortcuts

Some college students might think that they have too many other obligations to focus on fitness, but it’s just a matter of incorporating it into your busy day. A simple reorganization of time can do the trick.

If you really can’t spend an hour at the gym, use smaller blocks of time to exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator on your way to class. Walk to campus instead of driving, or find another fun way to commute by biking, skateboarding, or riding a scooter. Do squats while you read your textbook. Buy a set of FitDeck playing cards and spend five minutes on one exercise. Every little shortcut adds up.

3. Sleep Tight

Research suggests that lack of sleep can alter your memory and mood, which can lead to poor academic performance, diminished alertness, and even depression. Too many all-nighters, irregular sleep schedules, and early morning classes can have an adverse effect when the time comes to write a term paper or take a final exam.

To keep your memory sharp, make sure you get enough sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, limit electronic devices before bed, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and try to schedule mid-morning and afternoon classes. When you get enough sleep, you can stay alert enough to make healthier choices during the day.

4. Drink the Right Fluids

You grab a coffee in the morning, a soda at lunch, an energy drink in the afternoon, and a beer in the evening — but do any of them help you stay healthy? Experts say that some drinks are better than others. While regular water intake can regulate your temperature and eliminate waste, sugary drinks can give you jitters, lead to crashes, and even make you thirstier.

Don’t destroy your mental focus with the wrong drink! To stay hydrated, buy a reusable tumbler or bottle and carry water wherever you go — add a twist of lemon or lime for extra flavor. When you get coffee or tea in the morning, avoid the heavy dairy products and added sweeteners. Since alcohol consumption can also remove water from your body, drink in moderation.

5. Use Technology

You already spend hours a day on your laptop and phone, so you might as well use them to reach your fitness goals too. You can track your meals, discover new exercises, play memory-building games, quit bad habits, or measure your stress levels. If you have a fitness need in mind, there’s always an app for it.

But if you don’t want to download a hundred apps, there are other ways to integrate technology into a healthier lifestyle. Find nutritious recipes on YouTube, play games on your Wii or Xbox Kinect, or wear a fit band such as FitBit or Jawbone to measure your daily activity and sleep. These tools make it convenient to prioritize your goals.

You already know that diet and exercise will help you stay healthy, but that advice is harder to observe when college forces you to juggle classes, sleep, and a social life. Keep these tips in mind when school starts to keep your mind and body at peak performance.

Looking for more ways to achieve the goals you set out for your fall semester? Check out the previous article in our series: This Fall I Want to Find a Job or Internship

Sources:

Matilda, B. (2013, March 8). Weight loss can be achieved by financial incentives: Study. Retrieved from Science World Report

Kamb, S. (2012, July 26). Why “I don’t have time” is a big fat lie. Retrieved from Nerd Fitness

Hershner, S., & Chervin, R. (2014, June 23). Causes and consequences of sleepiness among college students. Retrieved from NCBI

Water: Meeting your daily fluid needs. (2012, October 10). Retrieved from CDC

Dennis, E., Flack, K., & Davy, B. (2009, July 16). Beverage consumption and adult weight management: A review. Retrieved from NCBI

100 ways to get fit & stay healthy with tech (It’s easy). (n.d.). Retrieved from DailyTekk