It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of student life; the onslaught of alcohol, takeaway food and a suddenly jam-packed social calendar make it increasingly difficult to be healthy.
Along with the late nights and the dreaded 9am lectures, it can certainly feel like an uphill battle.
Gaining weight at university has become so common that it’s been dubbed the ‘Freshers 15’, in dedication to the average 15lbs gained during the first year of studying.
The stats make for grim reading!
In a recent study, it was revealed that a staggering 60% of students were “insufficiently physically active”, whilst 47% had unbalanced diets and 30% showed low levels of mental wellbeing.
It’s important not to stereotype - of course not all students are like this - but these figures are alarming nevertheless.
However, it is more than possible for students to shape up. By resisting temptations at university, you can make the most of your new-found independence by living healthier.
We spoke to Gareth Hughes, Physiotherapist and Researcher at the University of Derby, who told us how moving away is actually helping many youngsters to adopt positive new habits:
“Many find that being freed up from old environments and routines makes it easier to start eating well and exercising, and are able to make this a part of their new life.”
To tip the scales in the right direction, all it takes is a mindful approach, some moderation and a bit of savvy spending. The long-term results will benefit your body and mind (not forgetting your grades!)
1) Spend wisely – Up your Tupperware game!
With research from hungryhouse.co.uk stating that students spend around £925 a year on takeaways, it’s easy to see where economies can be made.
As exhilarating as your first food-shop might be, you need to stay within your budget and not be lured by the aisle with the fancy crisps.
One thing worth trying is online shopping. When you shop online, you can see how much you’re spending. In store, if you’re having second thoughts about those (calorific) ready-meals, you’re less likely to dash from the queue to put them back on the shelf. When you shop at home, you can delete said calorific items with the click of a button.
Take it from us, leading a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to break the bank.
Prioritising is crucial where money is concerned. A recent poll from approvedfood.co.uk revealed that 90% of students will rely on their parents for financial support this coming academic year, with 60% of parents even compromising on their own food-shop in the process.
Tip: Stock up on Tupperware and prepare your meals a couple of times a week. This will save you time and money in the long run and you won’t have to resort to eating junk.
2) Join the gym – Take advantage of your student discount!
Student life does have its perks – one of the best being student discounts.
It has been scientifically proven that regular exercise boosts brainpower and productivity – so what are you waiting for?
Gareth Hughes commented on the benefits of a healthy student lifestyle: “All the research shows that there are clear links between wellbeing and academic performance, so the risk is that ignoring your health will show in your grades and in how much you enjoy university.”
Fitness First Clubs offer a student membership. You can find out more information and sign up here.
3) Get your workout done in the morning
Early morning workouts are renowned for boosting productivity and general wellbeing, and for anyone willing to rise early, they can be an invaluable motivator.
For students, there will rarely be a better time to exercise. Set your alarm earlier, bite the bullet and wake up to start the day on a healthy, positive note.
Alongside a quieter gym and improved energy levels, working out in the morning allows you to focus on studying for the rest of the day. If you get into this habit, you’ll also refrain from staying out late every night of the week!
4) Use exercise to balance out your academic stress
Working out provides you with a great headspace, which according to Gareth Hughes, is vital at university:
“Paying attention to your mental wellbeing is important. We know that stress can reduce your ability to think clearly, problem solve and be creative – identify what helps you manage stress, and use the support available to improve the way you manage your mental wellbeing.”
In a study conducted by YouthSight and YouGov, it has been revealed that almost one in eight (12%) of the 6,504 undergraduates surveyed consider themselves to have a mental health condition.
Taking care of your nutrition and keeping active will help your general well-being during your time at university and beyond.
5) Join a sports society
Socialising at university doesn’t have to be all drinking games – in fact, there will be plenty of options available for you where you can make friends and get fit at the same time.
Whether you’re an avid sports fan or are looking to get back into an old favourite from your youth, sports societies offer a wealth of benefits, from meeting new people to even representing the university football team.
Telling a student to sleep is a little like telling a fish to swim; as far as the stereotype goes, students are pretty good at dozing off. According to research by the University of Michigan, they’re on to a good thing.
Sleep deprivation can cause havoc with your hormones, and it also puts you at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
While your late-night essay writing may seem like a good idea at the time, in the long-run it can severely harm your health. A recent post of ours offered some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.
With good nutrition and exercise, you’re sure to find the balance between the straight-and-narrow and ‘letting your hair down’.