A Healthy Balance

By Amber Allen 
One of the hardest struggles college students bear, other than rigorous coursework, is staying healthy. We take on the responsibility for our own diet and schedule. Sometimes we feel as though we have to choose between grades, a social life, and our health. For many, health is the easiest sacrifice, but obviously the most detrimental. There are three areas that I feel college students must adhere to despite the overload: sleep, meals, and exercise. Here are some tips about each that can help college students have a healthier lifestyle.
1.     Sleep
Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule in college can often seem impossible. Even when there is the opportunity to sleep, it’s common to lie awake thinking of anything but rest. Your obligations may seem to take up more time than there are hours in the day, but sleep deprivation is poisonous to the mind and body. Sleep has been proven to promote better learning, memory, and concentration. Sleep deprivation interferes with your body’s hunger signals, contributing to over eating and weight gain. It also increases anxiety and depression, two conditions an overwhelming amount of college students suffer from. The obvious solution to better mental and physical health is more sleep, even if it means sacrificing a night out.
Below are some strategies which can help one fall asleep when its time.
  •  Establish a routine.
  •  Get some exercise during the day to tire out your body.
  • Do not do anything in your bed except for sleep. This will help your mind associate your bed with sleep only
  •  If you cannot sleep, do not lay there. Get up and do something.
  • Try to relax your mind. Concentrate on something else such as music, reading, or a form of mediation.                                                                                            
2. Diet

We have all heard of the “freshman fifteen”. It’s a real phenomenon, but it is not only restricted to freshmen.

Many students do not know how to shop healthy at grocery stores, especially while on a budget. To the left is a healthy shopping list that complies with a college student’s finances. Healthy substitutes such as light sodium, light butter, and sugar free snacks make a difference in calorie intake.

Other healthy substitutes include wheat for white bread, dark chocolate for milk chocolate, and rice cakes for Rice Crispies. Fruits and nuts are also some great study snacks!
In addition to improper food choices, most statistics estimate that 30-50% of college students (especially women) have an eating disorder. Depriving oneself of nutrition affects the ability to take on the many aspects of being a college student. Eating disorders also increases the likelihood of depression and susceptibility to many diseases.
3. Exercise
Many of us were encouraged by the school system and our parents to exercise in high school. There were many extracurricular activities that involved exercise and plenty of opportunities to find the time in our schedules for them. Now, with college academics, organizations, and social activities, it’s not as easy to be motivated to work out. Exercising, however, is important since it relieves stress, generates energy, and promotes better thinking and learning.
Exercise is also critical to maintain a healthy weight. Just 30 minutes of cardio a few days a week can make a difference in our overall health, and can thus help us better concentrate on the things which require a lot of our time and attention, such as classes. A gym is not the only location where we can devote to fitness. Zilker Park, Mount Bonnell, and the Greenbelt are just some examples of locations which provides beautiful landscapes along with many great trails for a hike or run.
4. Useful Sources
Here are some interesting sources on the benefit of sleep, exercise, and diet on student performance
“Getting Enough Sleep is Vital To Academic Success” http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=659
“Benefits of Napping”
“Why Exercise Makes Us Feel Good”
“Train Your Brain With Exercise”
 “The Importance of Healthy Eating”
“Groceries 101 College Freshman’s Shopping List”

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