College students have plenty to worry about these days, with finding a job in a tough economy topping the list. Between the job search, studying, campus activities, and time spent “living the college life,” it’s easy to put your health on the back burner.
Courtesy of life-without-fat.com.
And that’s okay, right? I mean, you’re young, and your body can handle the stress of too little sleep and exercise, and too much unhealthy food…
Or can it?
In truth, it’s only a matter of time before the poor health choices you make as a young adult catch up with you. Your health is no one’s responsibility but your own and maintaining it takes constant effort. Learn that lesson now and you will set yourself up for success in the years to come.
Here are 3 of the most common health mistakes college students make and how you can avoid them:
Eating Too Much Junk Food: Dorm cafeterias put soft-serve ice cream machines and waffle makers at your finger tips, and campus convenience stores provide all of the salty snacks and sugary sodas you could ever want to propel yourself through late night study sessions. Add in a few midnight pizza runs and party binges and you’ve created quite a mess for your body to clean up.
In fact, according to teenshealth.org, studies have shown that snacking between 8PM and 4AM is a leading contributor to weight gain.
Avoid It: Eat at regular times without skipping meals and incorporate plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Pay attention to portion sizes and nutrition labels (many dorm menus provide them) and limit your intake of high-calorie foods, including alcohol.
If you are up late, fuel your food cravings with lower calorie fruits, vegetables, or sugar-free drinks. Your body will thank you for it!
Not Exercising Enough: Without high school sports or gym class programmed into your daily schedule, many college students let exercise fall by the wayside. Combining lower activity levels with increased caloric intake makes putting on the “freshman 15″ a real possibility.
Avoid It: Take at least 30 minutes every day to do something active, such as walking, jogging, swimming, taking a group exercise class or working out at the campus gym. Also get up and stretch or walk around if you catch yourself sitting for an extended period of time.
Researchers have found that students who exercise at least 3 days a week are more likely to report better physical health, as well as greater happiness, than those who do not exercise. Students who stay active are also more likely to report using their time productively. If just a little bit of exercise can help boost your health and your grades, it sounds like a no-brainer.
Courtesy of darlington.ac.uk.
Sleeping Too Little (and No, Naps Don’t Count): From studying and other school-related activities to social outings and noisy roommates, it’s hard to avoid poor nights of sleep in college. Among other consequences, a lack of quality sleep can lead to increased stress levels and weight gain.
Avoid It: Do the best you can to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Don’t rely on naps or power 10+ hour sleep sessions to catch up on missed sleep. Finally, avoid caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime, as well as other stimulating activities such as exercise, TV, texting and Facebook.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself this school year is to keep your health on track. If your health is not already a priority, begin introducing positive changes slowly and build healthy habits now. You’ve got a lot of off-campus years ahead of you, and it’s up to you to make sure that you will be healthy enough to enjoy them.
What are your tips to help stay healthy on campus?
As the obesity epidemic grows in scope, so too does the “blame game.” Lack of exercise, over-consumption of food, sedentary work environments, lifestyle choices, biological predispositions, genes…the list of possible culprits for America’s fatness goes on.
Fast food is a common target. Earlier this month, an advocacy group launched a campaign petitioning 26 hospitals across the country to remove a major fast food restaurant from their cafeterias with the aim of sending a “better message” to consumers.
Some of the reasoning behind the group’s initiative comes from a 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that allowing fast food centers to operate in hospitals not only affects guests’ consumption of fast food on the day of their visit, but also unintentionally boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of fast food in general. Here’s more research that supports the initiative:
The prevalence of obesity-related diseases has risen sharply over the past thirty years, and the number of fast food restaurants in America has more than doubled over the same period (The National Bureau of Economic Research).
Studies have shown that “consumption of fast food among children in the US seems to have an adverse effect on dietary quality in ways that plausibly could increase risk for obesity.”
Studies have shown that increased proximity to fast food restaurants is linked to an increase in obesity.
Courtesy of wagnerfpa.wordpress.com.
So being near to fast food increases the likelihood of obesity, but will removing fast food from hospitals (and other institutions and neighborhoods) help solve the problem?
The New York Times recently reported that studies have shown that “there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.”
Restrictive “diets” and the “diet mentality” in general do not lead to long-term effective weight-loss. What does work, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, is eating less fat, exercising more, using prescription weight loss medications, or participating in commercial weight loss programs.
Calling for removal of fast food from hospitals sends the message that fast food restaurants are “bad” and can be blamed for obesity, lessening personal responsibility for our own health.
Blaming fast food restaurants for obesity can place us on a slippery slope. Should we remove buses from our streets to force people to choose the less convenient, but “healthier” walking or biking options? After all, sitting for long periods of time is correlated with obesity, and most adults do not get the recommended level of exercise.
Similarly, while we should limit consumption of fast food, we can’t eliminate it from the American diet as long as there is a demand for convenient, inexpensive, and (arguably) tasty food. We need to improve health through education and develop incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Perhaps a partnership between hospitals and Weight Watchers (or other proven commercial weight loss programs), or the establishment of walking groups or active events within hospital walls, could promote lasting change.
We won’t make any progress in the fight against obesity by playing the blame game at the expense of taking responsibility for our health into our own hands.
Courtesy of www.topnews.in.
What do you think? Will restricting fast food lead to a decrease in obesity? How can we as individuals, families, and institutions promote a healthier America?