With newfound freedom, looming deadlines, and the pressure to party every weekend it can be tough to stay fit and healthy at university. We give our top tips so that you don't fall victim to the 'Freshman 15'.
1. Healthy food doesn't have to be expensive
It's a very common misconception that healthy eating is a privilege only for those with lots of money and that as a broke student you are forced to live off super noodles/ramen. If you are sensible with your food shopping, you can pick up healthy foods for less than the cost of unhealthy foods.
Make use of canned foods such as beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Tins are always very cheap and the food inside is just as good quality (if not better) than fresh. It will also last longer in your cupboard. The same goes for frozen food – frozen vegetables are put into deep freeze almost as soon as they're picked so are actually fresher than the 'fresh' produce on offer at most supermarkets, which can sit in warehouses and stock rooms for weeks or even months before it's purchased.
2. You don't have to party every weekend
Trying to make new friends and fit in at university can put a lot of pressure on you and it can feel like you don't have any other choice than to go out every weekend, spend all your money on alcohol, and then feel rotten for the next few days.
Be sensible with your university experience and balance real life with party life. Of course, you want to make the most of your time as a student, but also remember that this is your stepping stone to the adult world and so if you don't want a huge culture shock when it's time to settle down behind a desk for the next 40 years, it's good to get used to developing a strong work ethic and being able to say no to peer pressure. One of the healthiest things you can do is cut down on your alcohol consumption and try not to pick up bad habits such as smoking just because your new friends do.
3. Make being active part of your lifestyle
It's easy to get fit for free and you don't need to dedicate hours a day to working out, especially when you have the stress of exams and deadlines to cope with. Add activity into your daily routine by walking instead of getting public transport or cycling to classes.
There are always ways to make being active part of your lifestyle and some small changes could lead to big results. If you do have time to work out or your university has a student gym, try to find time to make the most of this as exercise can hugely improve your mental health and help you get through tough classes and the big change of leaving home and becoming a student for the first time. There may also be sporting clubs and groups that you can join which will help you make new friends, will be fun, and will not only get you fit but will help you unwind and relax among all the work.
4. Get your friends to join you
It's always tough to do things alone, especially when your friends are trying to persuade you to go out and party, so recruit your friends to join in with the healthy lifestyle so you can support each other.
Go walking, running, or cycling together or join a club or society so that you can make like-minded friends who also want to stay fit and healthy. Being surrounded by people who can support you will make a huge difference and will make it a lot easier to get fit and stay healthy throughout your tenure as a student.
5. Learn to cook simple, healthy meals
It's a typical stereotype that students can't cook and live off ready meals and junk food, but this doesn't have to be the way. Once you've stocked up on cheap but healthy food, find a few staple recipes that you can cook each week that don't take long but give you all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. They don't have to be complicated and you don't have to have any previous experience with cooking – you'll soon pick it up and realise how fun and easy it can be!
Cooking doesn't have to be time-consuming and there are some recipes that are super easy, healthy, and quick. Once you've put together a few staples and after you've cooked them a few times, you'll be able to knock them up in no time, even when you come home exhausted from a long day of classes, and you know you're staying healthy and that you won't make yourself feel worse by putting junk in your body.