Coughs, sneezes and sniffles are not uncommon sounds in the classroom during winter at Concordia. Although the influenza scare may be almost over, maintaining good health is still a constant battle for college students, who are surrounded by germs. With New Year’s Resolutions struggling to be upheld, many people are striving to live healthier lives. That being said, there are a few good tips to starting the year off right.
Unfortunately, one of the most important aspects of staying healthy is in an area where many college students fail: getting enough sleep. According to Concordia Health Department Chair Dr. Kristen Hetland, sleep is a key component to keeping a strong shield against cold and flu viruses.
“That way,” she said, “if your body does come across a virus, it can battle it.”
Sleep is often underrated by college students because studying for exams or finishing papers takes priority.
David Rosenthal, M.D., director of Harvard University Health Services, recommends students get six to eight hours of sleep per week but he recognizes that students have to pull all-nighters every once in a while.
“When you must pull an all-nighter,” he suggested in an online article “try to take a one to two-hour nap the next day to make up some of the difference. If you have roommates who are up all night, make a contract that outlines quiet hours.”
However, as we enter 2013, most people are looking to increase their activity level. This time of year, gyms are notorious for being packed; however, Hetland said that keeping fit is not all about sweating it out in the weight room.
“There is a misconception that people need to go to the gym and bust out six miles of running to be fit,” she said, “but research shows that a minimum 45 minutes of walking a day is enough.”
Also, she emphasized the often forgotten truth: “Fitness is for health. Nutrition is for weight loss.”
As much as one might wish, running a mile does not justify wolfing down three scoops of Ben & Jerry’s, nor is eating veggies all day everyday enough to be in good shape. True health, Hetland said, comes from a balance of keeping active daily, as well as eating correctly.
Eating correctly, for Hetland, is not so much a matter of what someone should not eat, but a question of what someone should eat.
“New Year’s resolutions say, ‘I am not gonna eat this, this and this,’” she said. “I try to look at the flip side. What do I try to have with every meal?”
Her answer? The greens. Despite a rather dull reputation, vegetables are required in healthy eating habits.
In the article “Expert Strategies for Staying Healthy at College,” Rosenthal says that, “Fruits and veggies are bursting with phytonutrients that help keep infection and disease at bay, so you want plenty on your plate.”
Rosenthal goes on to state that a good rule of thumb is to make sure half your plate is fruits and vegetables.
A website Hetland suggested to help create a balanced plate is www.choosemyplate.com. Designed by the United States Department of Agriculture, the site offers multiple ways to track your physical activity, eating habits and calorie intake, as well as providing tips and information on how to eat and exercise in healthy amounts.
Yet no matter how motivated one might be, there is still a daunting enemy that has made itself all too visible during these first weeks of January: the cold. As students run shivering from Knutson to the library, smothered by parkas and scarves, it can be hard to keep up motivation to go work out (especially when indoor, cozy and warm). Hetland suggested solutions to keep motivated when the wind-chills might be getting you down.
“I worry that that [the cold] would be enough to get people off their New Year’s resolutions,” she said, “but make a plan. Make a goal. Make realistic goals.”
Better yet, she said, get a buddy to set those goals with. And when the goals are met, give yourself a reward. For example, take a trip somewhere or buy each other something.
More important than eating correctly or exercising, Hetland was sure to note, is maintaining mental health as well. As many might recall from health or wellness classes, health is not only physical but is also social, emotional, environmental, academic and spiritual. If any of these suffer, health as a whole suffers as well. Some of these cannot be managed on our own and therefore require the support of others to stay healthy.
“We need to help each other out more. I’m a big advocate of paying it forward,” Hetland said. “If you see someone walk by looking sad, say hello. Have heart-to-hearts. This is a family. This is our Concordia family.”