The land of sleepless nights=college. Nothing beats cramming four months’ worth of information into a three-hour study session and binge drinking to forget it all. Talk about less than healthy habits. So how do you find the motivation to take the time out of your already full schedule to do something about it? Turns out, you can actually develop healthy behaviors and boost your GPA, all at the same time.
Feeling Better Means Doing Better
The freshman 15 feels familiar to most first-year students. Amidst figuring out who to befriend on our dorm floor and navigating our way around campus for the first time, our days consist of binging on Doritos from the food court and catching up on sleep. The next three years prove themselves just as challenging. When you move into your own apartment or house, eating healthy only gets harder because now you’re in charge of groceries and cooking (wait, how do you even do that?).
Poor eating habits actually affect not only your physical health, but also your emotional well-being. “Stress is a physiological process and ultimately, it’s a barrier to your health,” said Kathy Finley, an applied health science specialist at Indiana University. “More and more kids are wanting to know how to remain healthy and make the most of their options in college. That’s why it might be helpful to take a class on public health.” Courses taught by Finley such as “Health and Surviving the College Years” not only boost students academically, but also provide helpful insight into concerns every college student feel about their health. These courses aim to guide you through health strategies and help set up personal goals for you to reach.
Aside from taking classes pertaining to health promotion and strategies, the most effective habit to develop is the one you hear over and over again. You guessed it, exercise. “Exercise is the magic pill,” said Finley. “When you’re feeling better physically, you feel better emotionally. It helps students academically, in relationships and it makes them more aware of their actions.” Yes, cutting down on unhealthy food options will help. Adding a short exercise routine to your weekly schedule boosts your spirits and allows you to succeed better academically.
Get Past Gymtimidation
Face it—not everyone loves working out. After a tedious day of back-to-back classes and between your afternoon Chipotle break and your 10 p.m. pregame, you can think of about 20 other things you’d rather do to kill time than exercise. A lot of us experience anxiety and reticence around working out. But what are we so afraid of? Maybe our apprehension stems from some common misconceptions we hold about getting active.
“So many students think that you have to workout for an hour to see results,” said Finley. “Just walk to your classes, or pick up your pace if you already do. When you’re doing normal activities, get up and move. The key is to keep moving, that’s how you see results.” So next time you consider jogging around the track 17 times, just remember—it only takes 30 minutes to reap the benefits of exercising.
Not all of us look like gods and goddesses when we workout either, which might make us feel self-conscious. “When you go to the gym, people aren’t watching you work out,” said Finley. “Everyone comes to the gym to have a moment to themselves where they can have a break from their busy lives. Some students are intimidated to go to the gym because they’re afraid of not knowing how to use the equipment—but that’s what the staff is there for, and they’re always happy to make recommendations if you ask.” Wait, can this be true? Of course, now start walking to the gym already.
Balance Your Body and Mind with Yoga
When we think of exercise, the most typical activity that comes to mind consists of going for a jog. On adventurous days, maybe we lift a couple weights at our local sports center or maybe use the elliptical in our apartment building’s downstairs’ gym. According to Dan Cheeseman, a professional yoga instructor at IU, an efficient workout strengthens boosts your body and your mind. Yoga offers something that no gym equipment in the world can give you: presence in each and every moment of your life.
“College students are constantly pulled in so many different directions,” said Cheeseman. “Yoga teaches you how to be fully focused and be in the moment. The only way to be successful anywhere in life is through focusing.” What sets apart yoga from your basic once-a-week 30-minute jog boils down to the tools it equips you with in order to be healthy, happy and successful. “We learn how to breathe correctly, mediation, better posture and relaxation,” said Cheeseman. “Yoga enables you to better focus in every situation of your life, whether you’re learning in class, talking with friends or exercising.”
Taking a yoga course through your school not only makes for easy class credits that count towards graduation, but it also presents itself as the perfect opportunity to become a total yoga pro since you have a whole semester to perfect the lifestyle. At the very least, you will walk away with a few meaningful life lessons. “My advice? Enjoy life, be present. This is not a rehearsal. Life is a series of how’s—the more focused and relaxed you are, the happier you’ll be,” said Cheeseman. What are you waiting for?