I went to elementary school. I went to middle school, which was a fucking nightmare (please excuse the F-word, but I mean it so strongly that there’s no justification in censorship). I went to high school, which was much better than the abominable years of dealing with stupid-ass teenagers. I had a few jobs–some were magnificent, others were not-so-hot. Now, I go to university. Has its ups and downs. But overall, I don’t regret or resent anything about it!
With all the schooling I’ve done thus far (and continue to complete), I’ve managed it all when it comes to maintaining a healthy routine, all encompassing food, exercise, sleep, studying, time management, and cultivating social relationships. Ultimately, I recognized that the most critical factors all boil down into eighteen tips–I selected eighteen just because eighteen is the age where most people begin their college or university experience. Heck, it’s the ticket to adulthood (21 years-old is the VIP pass, but we’ll get into that in a few months…wink wink)!
Having said that, here are eighteen tips for all y’all who are currently enrolled in university or college, or even in high school or middle school. This post isn’t strictly for eighteen year-old individuals, obviously–you can utilize all these pieces of advice anytime and anywhere!
- Plan, plan, plan. ESPECIALLY for convenience. Create a weekly compilation of recipes. Write down a grocery list. Meal prep on one day. Package each meal for the days of the week. Repeat with your workout routine (which is its own separate tip). Students are busy folks, which emphasizes the importance of planning even more. Turning to a plan heavily reduces your inclination to commit to rash decisions such as ordering pizza or eating five granola bars for dinner when you could have had a warm plate of vegetables and brown rice with tofu instead.
- Note your priorities. What do you truly want to accomplish? If optimizing your health and your physical fitness aren’t up there, well…first of all, they should be, and second of all, don’t complain if you know you can improve on them. Anyways, if you’re not happy with your current situation, take accountability for it and re-situate the to-do list of your life. If that means numbering morning runs and cooking kale and protein first and second, then so be it…it might entail lowering that Halloween party or ice cream date down the list. Remember that this is investment in yourself and for the benefit of your body, mind, spirit, and future. You ultimately have yourself to care for, and working out and eating wholesomely are the prime steps to utilize.
- Be prompt–otherwise, on time. For EVERYTHING. Classes. Appointments. Dates. Errands. WORKOUTS. You know why promptness is key? Being on time with your daily tasks helps you maintain a more responsible lifestyle by developing accountability. Time management is incredibly important in all kinds of aspects in your life, especially in health and fitness. Putting off your workouts or meal prep sessions will just lead you to make worse decisions for your health–next thing you know, it’s been weeks since you’ve gone to the gym and you would also be on your 275th instant ramen bowl.
- Do your laundry. Honestly, nothing is worse than exercising in clothes that are already dirty. Personally, whenever I have only two or three workout outfits left, it’s time to clean the load. If you discover that you don’t have any suitable pieces of clothing to wear to workout, you’ll be less inclined to even start. On another note, you may find more motive to exercise if you wear flattering attire, anyways (though this doesn’t necessarily work for me since I don’t mind exercising in sweatpants and an XL tee)!Hunting down gym hotties, anyone?
- Focus on school-work. While this post is all about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s all about maintaining a healthy lifestyle while studying. Prioritizing academics may seem a little counterproductive…for example, why should you study instead of exercise? Well, to be fair, exercising can boost cognitive strength and efficiency for your studies, but keeping up with your grades will prevent you from slipping into unhealthy habits such as binge-drinking, partying, smoking, and even over-eating (well, unless you rely on chips and candy as study snacks). Besides, at the end of the day, you’re here to get an education, not to maintain a physique with veins, <10% body fat, and muscle tones for days.
- Compose a workout routine. Just like your diet plan, exercising is just as beneficial for your health. Create a weekly plan of workouts that target specific body parts in each session. If you have less days to exercise, include more total body workouts. On the other hand, if you have more time to spare, you can go into more specific body parts like certain back muscles or lower body parts. In addition, if you have hours to exercise, your routines shouldn’t be incredibly taxing. Only got twenty minutes or less? Crank up the intensity–HIIT, Plyo, everything like that where you can exert heaps of energy in a small amount of time will do the trick.
- Look out for deals. Nothing makes a university student like me happier than grocery discounts. Specifically, if blueberries are on sale or if my favorite vegan granola is on clearance. Anyhow, you can also cater your meal plan towards weekly discounts, which will benefit the diversity of your diet as well. For example, if bananas are on sale, maybe meal prep some banana pudding overnight oats for breakfast. With discounted beans, you can whip up a mean vegetable chili or curried stew. You’ll be slimming down with more planning, as will your wallet.
- Walk more. Picking up a ride from a friend or calling an Uber can be super tempting–not to mention how much the elevator is utilized on campus. That being said, these are all missed opportunities to sneak in more steps, otherwise energy expenditure through physical activity. To begin, walking has proven all kinds of health benefits, but the hidden cardio may help you lose weight at the same time, just as long as you don’t eat the extra calories burned.
- Ride your bike (if you brought one). In a pinch, but still want to move your body? Biking is superb for increasing physical activity given that you move your legs, your arms, and even your core. The faster you bike, the more quickly you’ll arrive to class, and the more intense your cardio will be!
- Sleep just enough. Most of us are very guilty of skimping on sleep for all kinds of reasons, whether you’re cramming for your next midterm at 7 A.M. or getting it down until 3 A.M. in the morning. Either way, most students have sucky sleep schedules. High-quality slumbers have proven in countless studies to provide alleviation for stress levels in terms of physiological and mental health, as well as amping energy levels, cognitive functionality, and stabilizing one’s appetite. Lack of motivation to exercise and more inclination to overeat all pertain to sleeping insufficiently. However, it’s just as counterproductive to sleep too much, given that over-sleeping is linked to less physical activity, mood swings, elevated blood sugar levels, and inflammation. Find a happy range of hours for your–most people thrive on 6-10 hours of sleep, with 7-8 hours at a a lower range.
- Find the best crowd to hang with. Hate to say it, but your friends or your partner may not necessarily align with your desire to become fitter. It might not necessarily occur for reasons concerning envy or insecurity–they just might naturally prefer drinking and partying or the Netflix and chill lifestyle. This doesn’t mean that you have to ditch your current social life all together, but do cultivate relationships with other people who are more health-conscious to feel less isolated. On top of that, these new friends can maintain your responsibility of your choices.
- Grab a workout buddy (only if you don’t like exercising alone). Admittedly, some people just need another head to keep them accountable or motivated to exercise. Forming a partnership with another person helps many people complete amazing sessions while having fun at the same time! Personally, I find it more therapeutic to exercise solo, but many people at my university gym kill it with partner workouts. The presence of someone else’s energy is simply invigorating–you also may indirectly exert more energy in each rep and move to add a little friendly competition. If you are a beginner, it’d be helpful if your workout buddy is more advanced than you as well. Additionally, if you really want to catalyze your motivation, enroll in a group class or seek help from a personal trainer.
- Watch what you’re eating (duh). Yes, Pop Tarts and Subway sandwiches are convenient and generally inexpensive depending on where you go and what you get. However, they offer little when it comes to nutritional quality, which correlate with how you’ll look, how you’ll feel, and how you’ll function. In a perfect world, ALL my favorites would be healthy–sweet potatoes, black beans, kettle corn, protein cookies, pizza, frozen yogurt, waffles, peanut butter granola, Chinese takeout, Indian takeout, bread, vegan chicken nuggets, and red velvet Oreos. Sadly, we don’t live in such a forgiving universe. But anyways, focus on integrating more wholesome food into your diet, specifically vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and healthy fats. For example, stuff some vegetables and beans in your breakfast burrito or snack on fruit instead of sweet crackers. You’ll be smashing in your five-a-day in no time!
- Watch what you’re drinking. Alcohol. Energy drinks. Sugary coffee drinks. Fully-loaded smoothies. Soda. If in excess, they are all dietary nightmares, not just for weight loss reasons, either. As healthier or macro-friendly alternatives, stick to black coffee, herbal tea, non-dairy milk, homemade smoothies, kombucha (though those can be expensive), or water.
- Take caution your portion sizes. Am I the only one that can easily tackle down a box of granola, a package of Oreos, a pint of ice cream, and a whole bag of popcorn in one sitting? Yes? No? Maybe so? Well, if you do find yourself able to eat more than you can even mentally stomach, then definitely work on your portion sizes. Analyze labels–serving sizes, nutritional facts, overall packaging–and see what works best for you. Consider purchasing cereal that are packaged in individual bowls or pretzels in single-serving packages instead of the bulk kind. Alternatively, buy the whole box or bag and portion out reasonable servings in separate containers. You’ll be less likely to overeat if you don’t have more to chew in the first place.
- If necessary, measure your calorie intake. Even though it is not necessary to count your macronutrients or follow a diet plan, having a blueprint of how much you should be eating in terms of calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat can be extremely helpful to start.
- Manage your stress levels. Something that I am incredibly guilty of is allowing stress to overpower my day, whether it concerns classes, appointments, work, grocery shopping, working out, or my social life. Personally, I have been prioritizing stress management as number one like no other given that a stressed mindset can make unwise choices. For example, whenever I feel stressed out, I tend to lack a sense of presence, which negatively affects my workouts, diet, sleep, creativity, and studying abilities. Next time if stress gets to you, call a friend, write down your emotions, take a few deep breaths, drink some water, listen to music, or do anything else to clear your mind.
- But still, enjoy yourself. College, university, high school, graduate school, everything like that has to add value into your life. However, it has to contribute as much emotional and mental positivity towards yourself. The less you enjoy your lifestyle, the less likely you’ll stick with it. After days and days or weeks and weeks of killing it with your fitness and your diet, allow yourself a treat or two. Go ahead and have a glass of wine on date night or enjoy a night of pizza and popcorn with your friends.
What health and fitness tips for students do you have?