We’ve all heard the stories about the “freshman fifteen” or the “freshman plague.” This is typical college lore used to scare freshman into forming healthy habits early on. While these stories can often be a bit exaggerated, the wellness habits you form during your first semester of college really do matter. It will most likely be your first time choosing your own food, making your own exercise schedule, and regulating your own sleep patterns. It can be tough figuring out all these factors for yourself, so here are a few tips to help you get on the right track and stay healthy as you adjust to your new college life.
This may sound like one of those cliché health tips that you hear all the time, but getting a solid amount of sleep each night is the foundation for a healthy life. College is a balancing act. You’ll be figuring out how to manage homework, RSOs, and a social life, but sacrificing sleep for any of these things is 100% not worth it. Setting a time to go to bed on weeknights will help you get into a routine and leave you feeling better during the day. While it sometimes seems like pulling an all-nighter is the best way to finish your work, I promise you it’s not. Getting your eight hours of sleep each night will help you to make the most out of your days.
Take advantage of your free gym membership.
All University of Illinois students have free access to the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) and Campus Recreation Center East (CRCE). Between these two gyms, you’ll have access to tons of different fitness equipment, two pools and a hot tub, two running tracks, and a climbing wall. You can also sign up for workout and yoga classes for an additional charge. I try to visit CRCE a few times a week to stay active and frequently go to the pool with friends. While it can be hard to fit daily workouts into your busy schedule, staying active is an important part of staying healthy, and the gyms on campus provide lots of options to exercise in a way that best suits your style.
Walk to class whenever possible.
Another easy way to stay active and healthy is to walk or bike to class whenever you can. Plus, taking a walk is a great way to relax and clear your head. I always try to reach a goal of 10,000 steps per day. While this is sometimes difficult to achieve when it’s rainy or cold, it’s easy to reach this goal just by walking everywhere I need to go on a nice day.
Go into the dining halls with a plan.
With the newfound freedom to choose all your own meals and all-you-can-eat dining halls at your disposal, it’s easy to overindulge at times. It’s tough to limit yourself when you have so many options, but it’s important to be conscious of what you’re putting on your plate each day. An easy way to do this is to check the UI Dining app, which lists the menus for all the dining halls every day. This is a helpful resource because it allows you to plan your meals better. Look through the menus and decide what looks good to you. Then, instead of just walking into the dining hall and hungrily filling up your plate with everything that looks good, you’ll be on a mission to find those few menu items you were looking forward to.
Visit McKinley Health Center.
McKinley Health Center is an awesome resource for students to utilize. You can schedule appointments to meet with various different healthcare professionals or simply walk in and pick up a package of cold medicine when you aren’t feeling your best, and all of these services are included with your tuition. They also have a 24-hour Dial-a-Nurse service which allows you to call and ask health questions at any time. I made my first trip to McKinley to get my free flu shot a few weeks ago. Since sickness spreads like a wildfire in the dorms, this was a great resource to utilize so I don’t have to worry about catching the flu and missing a bunch of classes later on.
Take care of yourself!
Most importantly, don’t forget about all the little things. Maintaining your personal hygiene habits in college is key. Simple things like showering, brushing your teeth, or even going out of your way to wash your hands more often can be frequently overlooked when you’re busy, but remember to prioritize these things. Trust me, getting sick in the dorms is not fun, but taking a few extra minutes each day to take care of yourself can help prevent sickness and leave you feeling better all around.