For many, college is the first time that we feel absolutely free — we can eat cereal for dinner, and marshmallows for breakfast, and nobody will stop us or instill motherly wisdom as to why that might not be the greatest idea. But, there are aspects of health and hygiene that shouldn't totally be ignored the second we unload our school supplies into our dorm rooms — and luckily, there are multiple ways to stay healthy on campus, no matter how busy you are. Trust me, building healthy habits is something that's better to do early on, and by giving yourself a few reminders, you can form a great balance between letting loose in college, and losing control of your health.
While you may think you have a solid grasp on personal wellness, there are so many health concerns that you should be aware of, but might not be. It's important to keep yourself scheduled with a healthy routine, as otherwise you might fall into a few bad patterns post-graduation that'll haunt you later. College kids are busy, and often take shortcuts — but, the best way to grow is to take the time to make sure you're taking the best care of yourself that you possibly can.
Here are a few suggestions to build some healthy habits while you're living on campus.
1. Walk, don't drive, to classes on a smaller campus.
Not only will you not lose time looking for a parking space, but you'll be able to have some time to interact with fellow students on the way to class. Classes can include a whole lot of sitting, so the opportunity to stretch your legs and move before and after will do your body good. It'll also help you better fight heart disease, and improve your mood, according to Mayo Clinic. Obviously a car is the best option if it's severely raining outside, but if you always make your vehicle the plan B, you'll be a lot healthier during the semester.
2. Never skimp on brushing and flossing your teeth.
Unless you, y'know, want to spend a lot of your money on cavities later on. Consider investing in a product like Flossolution, which helps makes flossing and basic dental hygiene a lot easier for the busy student on-the-go. "We always spend extra time reinforcing proper oral hygiene with our college bound patients because of how often we see students return while on summer break with issues such as interdental decay and gingivitis," says Dr. Tim Pruett, founder and creator of the product, noting that college students often break their dental hygiene routine with sugary drinks and late night studying. "What I tell our patients is that brushing is just not enough. It only cleans three of five exposed surfaces of a tooth or 60 percent. You have to floss to clean the other 40 percent."
Get in the habit of brushing twice a day, and make sure you floss. Plus, remember — bad breath is kind of a turnoff to everyone.
3. Safe sex always, no excuses.
When you're in college, you probably know a lot about birth control based on sex ed, but you may not know about the vast amount of options available to you. There's no right or wrong way to approach your own sexuality — if you're planning on waiting, that's awesome. If you'd like to experiment, that's awesome too. It's really up to what you feel comfortable with. Just realize that if you're playing it casual, you should never have sex without protection. If your partner says they are not comfortable using protection, realize that you'll be at risk for a plethora of diseases if both of you don't get tested first (and often, if you're both sleeping with other people). While other methods are great at preventing an unwanted pregnancy, condoms are the only thing out there that'll prevent STD transmission. So, be smart about your health before you get too "in the moment."
4. Make water your primary beverage.
Know what's plentiful in college? Soda, coffee, energy drinks, and of course, booze. While abstaining from all of these might be a little ridiculous (except for the latter, if you're underage) make sure that you're definitely swapping some of them out for water. Water helps you maintain your body fluids, helps clear up your skin, and helps keep you "regular," if you know what I mean. Plus, if you're having trouble sleeping at night... it might be the fact that you chugged a Red Bull at 8:30 p.m. to help you get some extra studying in. Even if you have an incredible tolerance of caffeine, you definitely want to keep an eye out for how much of it you're consuming.
5. Wash your sheets.
I admit, I washed my sheets like, twice per semester when I was in college. It was a pain to lug them down to the laundry room, and I only had one set — so, it was pretty much an event, to make sure nobody stole them or dumped them if they weren't tumbling in plain sight. If I knew how gross it was, it'd have happened way more often, and not just because fresh, clean sheets are one of the greatest joys in life. Dust mites, bacteria, and even mold can creep up if they're not washed at least once a week. "The real risk is that allergens increase with unwashed sheets as debris build up over time," Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., a professor at NYU School of Medicine, said in an interview with Yahoo News. Gross. A weekly change is definitely worth the quarters if you want to stay healthy.
6. Always wear flip flops in the shower.
Communal showers aren't the most pleasant experience, but they're definitely a sign that you're a full-fledged college student. After a while, they become less frightening and turn into part of your routine. But even if you absolutely trust your college janitorial team, it's always important to wear flip flops in the shower to avoid making contact with funky organisms and infections. Even better, cleaning off those flops with bleach on occasion will help ensure that you stay healthy.
7. Choose snacks wisely.
It's important to feed your brain, but your brain will get a lot more from nuts and berries than it would from chips and dip. The right food will help you stay focused — and according to WebMD, smart choices to include are yogurt, oatmeal, fish, and blueberries. The right foods will also help you fend off illnesses, which'll help ensure that you'll actually get to class, and not sit in bed surrounded by tissues. Everyone gets sick in college on occasion, but trying your hardest to make sure your body is healthy is key to gaining more out of your college education.
8. Take stretch breaks often.
Stretching is one of the easiest forms of exercise that you can do absolutely anywhere, and as a bonus, it'll help you improve your muscles as well as your flexibility. If you slump a lot during classes, it'll also help improve your posture. One terrific app you'll want to get is called Sworkit, which offers timed, personalized routines based on a time limit you set. While it's excellent for stretching, it also includes programs for strength, cardio, and yoga, all which can be synced up to music. Even better? The basic program is free. You've got nothing to lose.
9. Take a multivitamin.
The college diet is a bit unpredictable — while you think that eating pizza all the time is a myth, it really does happen (especially if you've got a great local delivery place a few blocks from your dorm). It's important to get a lot of fruits and vegetables in your diet, but if it's difficult, at least take a multivitamin to ensure that you're getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. Obviously you'll want to chat with a doctor before adding anything to your daily routine (and remember not to get too extreme with vitamins) but in general, a vitamin will help ensure that all of your bodily functions are working the best they can.
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