Why investing in your health at uni is the smart thing to do
So we get it that health isn’t automatically your top priority when you’re heading in to further education. You’re probably focusing on cramming for seminars, making new friends, dating, drinking, exploring a new city and struggling with your finances right? Plans for eating well, working out and taking care of YOU can slip to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list.
Body smart means brain smart
It’s no surprise that over 80% of university students admit they feel overwhelmed by college-related tasks, and one in two visits to the university health centre is related to mental health.
But a study has revealed something we’ve long suspected – that students’ mental and physical health is shaped largely by their keeping a healthy weight and actively attempting to be optimistic.
So your health and wellbeing should be just as important as logging those hours in the library or socialising at the student union.
Ever heard of Freshers’ Flu? Well, technically this isn’t actually a flu – it’s like a groggy bad cold, making you feel rubbish for a week or two.
It comes from a mix of physical and psychological factors that hammer away at your immune system and make you feel unwell. It used to be thought that the ‘flu’ was caught from all the alleged kissing that takes place in the first few weeks of college (we wish!).
However, it’s more likely that Freshers’ Flu comes from simply meeting a lot of new people, all carrying different germs at a time when your immune system is taking a battering from lack of sleep thanks to late nights socialising and early morning lectures, drinking alcohol, eating junk food and the stress of being away from home.
Now we’re not unrealistic – we’re not going to suggest you don’t let your hair down a little, and attending your lectures is a must! But try to offset those indulgences with some healthy habits outside of the party hours – great habits that should stay with you throughout the term.
An immunity-boosting supplement such as echinacea or making a steam inhalation with a few drops of tea tree oil could give you the best chance of staying fighting fit in those early few weeks of term.
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You are what you eat
Think of setting in place a diet of fresh home cooking with plenty of veg, snacking on fruit and nuts, healthy fats and slow release wholegrain carbs. If you’re not an ace chef, now is a great time to learn.
While it’s important to stock up on those great ‘economy foods’ such as pasta, rice and cereals, which give you high energy for relatively few pennies, don’t forget that the majority of your vitamins and nutrients will come from fresh produce.
Go for big pots of veggie curries – you’ll be the most popular person around! Avoid sugary drinks, and eat three regular meals that include greens and protein.
Plus a good multivitamin will ensure you’re not missing out on any vital nutrients while you’re getting to grips with mastering your kitchen skills.
Time to get sweaty
Research shows that university students gain an average 10lbs of weight in their first year. Eating healthily and keeping alcohol intake under control is the wisest way to combat this. However, sometimes raising the heart rate is the only way to offset some of the sins of the day. Plus the endorphin release will help combat stress levels!
Think outside of the box when it comes to burning the calories – yes of course there’s the gym, but there are plenty of fun (and free) workouts you can take advantage of outside, whether that’s going for a run, open water swimming, using the local park’s playground as an outdoor gym, or a space to do your own yoga class.
Joining a university team such as netball, hockey, football, rugby or rowing are great ways of making new friends in those first few weeks.
Even small steps such as ditching public transport in favour of walking, and investing in a cheap bike to get from A to B on campus, could mean you’ll burn those extra calories without even realising.
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We know you’re not going to be turning in at 9pm every night, but there are some tricks you can try so that when you DO hit the pillow, you get quality RnR.
Try to avoid going to bed with a belly full of food, and avoid chugging down caffeine to get you through those evening essay crises. Try to get up at around the same time on the weekends, as this will keep your body in a regular cycle.
Halls of residence can be noisy places that seem to never sleep, so consider investing in some blackout curtains, earplugs and an eye mask, and store technical appliances in a drawer or cupboard so that pesky blue light isn’t disrupting your sleep pattern (and YES, we are including your mobile phone!).
A magnesium supplement can help relax muscles and ease you in to the land of nod.
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