Written by: Joe Emerson // Apr 27, 2018
Last updated: May 9, 2018
Dealing responsibly with the basics of staying healthy needs to be at the top of your daily checklist once you hit campus, because you can’t do your best if you aren’t at your best. So be ready with these top five tips for how to stay healthy in college.
For many, the college adventure is the first taste of independence, daily decisions, major responsibilities, and the realization that little things long taken for granted can make or break you. Yes, even brushing your teeth, washing your hands, eating right, and getting enough sleep. You know, those things Mom and Dad always badgered you about that helped keep you healthy.
No. 5: Taking Care of the Little Things Is a Really Big Thing
Staying healthy is about the little things parents repeatedly tell children, things that echo from early childhood and became clichés because they are so important:
- Wash your hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with your parents. Washing your hands often and well curbs the spread of disease. And don’t forget to brush your teeth. Dental health affects overall health.
- Eat your veggies. Proper diet is about healthful food eaten in moderation, trying not to skip meals, and not eating on the run.
- Get your chores done. Keeping up with housework, schoolwork, and countless other tasks can be a pain, but not doing it will bury you under a mountain of to-do’s and negatively affect you physically and mentally.
- Get to bed. Getting adequate sleep is a tall order for a college student, but those who do will fare better physically, emotionally, and academically.
No. 4: Exercise Can Help You Make the Grade
Studies have shown that time spent getting physically fit may improve academic performance:
- Assessments of the effects of recess and physical activities in public schools have found cognitive benefits for schoolchildren.
- Math and reading are two areas improved by exercise. The National Center for Biotechnology Information says these areas rely on “effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness.”
- Even a single session of exercise has been shown to be effective in improving cognitive function.
Exercise spurs production of brain cells, sharpens concentration, helps memory, eases stress, improves mood, boosts physical and mental well-being, and often involves beneficial social interaction. Fortunately, you have many options to exercise around campus:
- Use residence hall and campus fitness and recreation centers.
- Bike, walk, run to campus destinations when possible.
- Participate in intramural sports.
You can also take advantage of less obvious ways to get your blood pumping: park further from your destination, use that distant dining hall, or take the stairs.
No. 3: Extracurricular Activities Are Good for Heart and Soul
Look to the campus and surrounding community for opportunities to enjoy yourself and even find some fulfillment. There are countless ways to connect with the campus and its host community in mutually beneficial ways:
- Participate in campus government, from student or residence hall government to any of the many councils and committees that are part of school life.
- Begin or continue volunteer work. You can check out local groups and organizations, bulletin boards and campus groups for new ideas, or scour the internet for ways to contribute.
- Connecting to religious or spiritual anchors is just a click away with sites such as USF Student Affairs’ Religious & Spiritual Life page.
You can also connect on projects or other pursuits related to your major or career goal through peers, teachers, administrators, classes, and programs. The goal is to advance academically and to map a path to career objectives. At USF, we offer Academic Initiatives and Career Services programs and a long list of other tools and activities to help you shape your academic and professional future.
Want to connect socially and grow? There’s a club for that – from chess, forensics, and debate clubs to political organizations and more. At USF, there are more than 600 student organizations. Whatever your passion, there are groups of similarly minded people willing to join you in advancing your knowledge and skill sets.
No. 2: Identify Wellness Resources and Use Them
Finding a college’s workout rooms, rec centers, medical facilities, and other resources can help keep you healthy and happy. At USF, there’s an app for that.
The MoBull Wellness app was developed by USF students and faculty at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The app addresses wellness issues by categories: academic, career, emotional, financial, physical, purposeful, and social. MoBull also tells you where and how to connect with places and people (police, counseling, medical staff) who can help if trouble strikes. Your safety is our top priority.
No. 1: Don’t Ignore Your Mental Health
Do an online search for “college student mental health crisis.” The results indicate the nation’s colleges are in the throes of one. Mental health experts are writing magazine articles and blogs about it that cite scary data points such as “73 percent of students experience some sort of mental health crisis during college.”
Don’t be afraid to recognize you’re struggling, and don’t hesitate to turn to professionals if an honest answer is a bit scary. The USF Center for Student Well-Being offers tips, information and resources to help you cope with a variety of health topics, including mental health. Students struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, or body image issues can find specific resources to help them cope. It's good to speak up and ask for help.