Staying Healthy in College

The Importance of Staying Healthy

Staying healthy is especially important to you as a college student. Here’s why:

  • You need your brain to work extra well so you can handle challenging coursework.
  • You need lots of energy to allow you to deal with new pressures and expectations.
  • Missing class because you’re sick can cause real problems.
  • Illnesses like colds and flu are spread more easily in crowded places, so you need to have a strong immune system.

Unfortunately, the realities of college life may make it hard to do the things you know you should do to stay healthy. For example:

  • Your parents aren’t here to cook healthy meals for you or remind you to wash your hands.
  • You are under pressure to complete your schoolwork, making it hard to take time to eat right and get enough exercise.
  • There is peer pressure to indulge in unhealthy food, alcohol, drugs, and unsafe sex.
  • The stress of college makes it harder to have the self-discipline it takes to do what you know you should.

However, if you don’t take care of your health, there can be a lot of negative consequences. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will:

  • Get sick more easily
  • Feel more stressed
  • Not have enough energy
  • Have a hard time concentrating in class
  • Feel grumpy and irritable
  • Have a hard time getting motivated to do your assignments
  • Have difficulty remembering what you have learned
  • Feel sleepy in class or while doing homework

man working out

Tips for Staying Healthy

Here are some ideas to consider to help keep you healthy:

girl eating healthy

  1. Wash your hands. There are germs on every surface, especially in an environment where multiple people are using the same spaces. How many people touched the same door, chair, keyboard, and desk that you did? Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. You should wash your hands whenever you use the rest room, eat, or enter your house. Just getting your hands wet won’t do the trick — make sure to use soap. When you don’t have a chance to wash, use hand sanitizer. While it will not remove 100% of the germs, it will significantly reduce the amount of germs on your skin. Keep it in your backpack and feel free to share with those around you, as their health is vital to yours.
  2. Keep your living space clean. Even though Mom and Dad aren’t here to tell you to clean up anymore, it’s still important. Leaving old food, dirty dishes, dirty clothes, trash, and other things laying all over your room or apartment is an open invitation for bugs, visible and invisible, to multiply.
  3. Get Some exercise. The benefits to exercise are almost endless: less depression and anxiety, more energy, better sleep, stress relief, weight control, lower risk of many diseases, and you just feel better. A common recommendation is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3–5 times a week, with strength training and stretching once or twice a week as well. Walk to class, visit the fitness center, run on campus, participate in intramural sports, go on an outdoor adventure with ORAC, or participate in whatever gets you moving.
  4. Eat a well-balanced diet. Try to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meat, and very few sugary and fatty foods. Eat a good breakfast and carry healthy snacks with you in case you get hungry during the day. If you can’t avoid fast food or prepared meals, choose healthy options.
  5. Get the right amount of sleep. Sleep gives your body a mental and physical break from the stresses of college. Without enough sleep, you will be sleepy in class and have trouble concentrating; you will also be more likely to get sick. Get approximately eight hours of sleep each night — sleeping in on the weekend will not make up for lost sleep during the week.
  6. Drink plenty of water. Sufficient water is absolutely necessary for your body to function properly. By the time you feel thirsty, your mental and physical performance have already become impaired. Headaches are a common symptom of dehydration; drinking a glass of water will often alleviate them. A typical recommendation is to drink at least eight 8 ounce glasses of water each day. Soda, coffee, and tea are not good substitutes for water. If you carry water with you, you will be more likely to get enough than if you rely on drinking fountains.
  7. Dress properly for the weather. Even in St. George, you shouldn’t run around in shorts all winter. It’s a good idea to check the weather before deciding what to wear and also take into account the temperatures you typically find in your classrooms.
  8. Bathroom precautions. Take proper precautions in public rest rooms. If you are living in a communal bathroom situation, don’t leave your toothbrush out on the sink; it will collect dust or someone else might use it. Wear shower shoes because warm, damp spaces are perfect areas for germs to grow. Also, carry your own soap with you to the bathroom; dispensers aren’t always stocked and bringing your own keeps you from having to go without.
  9. Wear Sunscreen. Whenever you will be out in the sun for a prolonged period of time, you should wear sunscreen to prevent sunburns and skin cancer.
  10. Wear a seat belt. Any time you get in a car, you should put a seat belt on. Not only is it good sense, it’s the law!
  11. Deal with stress in healthy ways. Stress can take a toll on your body and may make you more likely to catch whatever illness is going around. Learn techniques that work for you to keep stress under control.
  12. If you get sick, stay home. When you do feel sick, stay home and take the time needed to get better. Many students push themselves past their limits, get sick, and continue to push themselves. This will not only lead to being sick longer, but also expose your fellow students to your illness. Most classes allow you to miss a few lectures, so make sure you save those for when you are actually sick.
  13. See a doctor if needed. Most of the time, colds, flu, minor cuts and abrasions, etc. can be treated at home. However, if any symptoms are severe, persist longer than normal, become worse with time, or cause you concern, you should see a health professional. Call 435-652-7756 for an appointment at the Health and Wellness Center, which costs only $10. If you don’t have the money now, they can put it on your student account. See the Health and Wellness Center section in this book for more information.
  14. Seek help for depression and anxiety. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety or even suspect that you might be, seek help at the Health and Wellness Center or other medical professionals. These are medical conditions that can seriously impair your ability to function successfully as a student and in life, but they can be treated. Call 435-652-7756 for an appointment with the Health and Wellness Center — the first visit is free, and it is only $10 after that. See the Health and Wellness Center section in this book for more information.
  15. Exercise good judgment. Staying healthy in college includes making proper choices. Good judgment is needed in the areas of smoking, alcohol consumption and sexual activity. Each of these choices needs to be made with the long-term consequences in mind. Smoking can lead to a dangerous habit, addiction and cancer. Alcohol can also lead to addiction or impaired judgment. Sexual activity, especially with multiple partners, should be carefully considered and all necessary precautions taken; if you engage in this activity, being tested for disease is vital to your physical safety. The Health and Wellness Center offers a comprehensive smoking cessation program as well as information about sexual responsibility, alcohol and other drugs, nutrition, and other basic health issues. Condoms are also available for free at the front desk. See the Health and Wellness Center section in this book for more information.
  16. Get regular check-ups. You should get an eye exam, a dental exam, and a physical at least once a year.

Student First Aid Kit

All students should have a basic first aid kit at home. The items you need don’t cost a lot, but they’re handy to have when you need them and should be easy to find. They can all easily fit into a shoe box, which you can keep in your bathroom, bedroom, or wherever it is most convenient. If you purchase a first aid kit, make sure to open it up to see what it contains and add any items that may be missing.

Items you should have in your first aid kit:

  1. First aid manual
  2. Plastic bandages of various sizes
  3. Antibiotic ointment
  4. Gauze and adhesive tape
  5. Tweezers
  6. Thermometer
  7. OTC pain killers [aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil)]
  8. $10 to visit the Health and Wellness Center
first aid kit

Optional items you may also wish to include:

  1. Sunscreen
  2. Cough syrup
  3. Cold remedies
  4. Lip balm
  5. Sunburn ointment
  6. Anti-itch cream
  7. Sore throat lozenges
  8. Vitamin C
  9. Allergy medication
  10. Chemical cold pack
  11. Ace bandages
  12. Antacid
  13. Anti-gas medication
  14. Upset stomach or diarrhea medication