Tips for Staying on Track and Staying Fit in College

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College is a time to grow as a scholar, Christian, friend, community leader, and young adult. This growth comes with new opportunities and responsibilities, including prioritizing your health. The benefits of staying fit in college far outweigh the challenges of adjusting your schedule.

Staying Fit in College is a Key Part of Student Life

The Importance of Fitness for Christ

Fitness and diet culture is abundant in the media and often focuses on the superficial desire to control our appearance. However, we know there are other reasons why physical health is important: quality of life, longevity, and overall well-being are all linked with being physically fit. There are also many reasons to take care of your physical body as a servant of Christ on this earth. Joining in fellowship and doing good work requires a physical body that is fit for service. Living a Christian lifestyle includes demonstrating your faith through words and deeds, alone and as part of a community. Taking care of your physical fitness is necessary to "glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20).

The Challenge of Being Fit in College

When you head off to college, you're likely coming from a lifestyle that includes scheduled physical activity. You might have been on a team at school, had regular family bike rides, or participated in extracurricular programs like dance. Once you're in charge of your own schedule and optional activities, it can be harder to budget time for staying active. You'll also have more freedom and independence to choose your own meals and snacks. Late-night study sessions or events with friends can also alter your sleep schedule. These changes combine to make it harder to stay physically fit in college. Research suggests that physical activity and nutritional habits may continue to decline as school workloads and additional college responsibilities increase.

Mental, Emotional, and Physical Benefits of Being Fit

Being fit in college is essential, despite it often being lower on a student's priority list. We know that exercise helps prevent certain diseases and physical injuries, so staying fit will make it easier to experience all the school events and activities. College students often experience higher stress and anxiety levels than they did in high school, and research supports that exercise can help alleviate anxiety symptoms. We also know that regular exercise is linked with better brain health, including improved focus and memory. As a college student, these benefits of staying fit should be a high priority.

How to Stay Fit in College

Rather than brushing aside the change in your physical fitness or trying to return to a pre-college activity routine, take this opportunity to develop a new relationship with your physical fitness by taking advantage of the unique ways to stay fit in college.

Get Motivated

The first obstacle you'll have to tackle is getting motivated in college to stay fit. One trick is combining exercise with an activity you always look forward to. Put in your headphones and call a friend back home while you work out, find a gym buddy who helps you stay accountable, or make an exercise rewards chart for yourself to track your progress.

Multitask Like a Pro

College students are often very busy, so adding exercise to the schedule can seem impossible. Instead of skipping the workout entirely, choose to multitask instead. Take your textbooks to the gym and read while you walk on the treadmill. Listen to audio versions of your books or lectures while you clean your dorm room (cleaning is exercise if you keep it upbeat!). Brainstorm your group project ideas while you go for a run instead of sitting down to coffee.

Take Advantage of Campus Resources

One of the easiest ways to stay fit in college is to use your existing resources. On-campus rec centers and intramural sports are often included in student fees and are easily accessible for all students. Signing up for a group class or sport is also an easy way to add external motivation to your workout routine. Everyone else is expecting you to show up! Make sure you're also on the lookout for any campus events with a physical fitness component, like relay races or dance parties.

Be Clever with "Travel Time"

If you live on campus, everything is easily accessible within walking distance, so take advantage of this fact by avoiding your car as much as possible. Take the long route around campus to reach the dining hall, or plan to meet with a friend at the café furthest from your last class. If you're off campus, park in a distant lot so that you have to walk more on the way to class.

Choose Something You Love

The very best way to ensure you stay fit in college is to find a physical activity you love. College is the time to try something new, so feel free to join a sport you've never played, ask a trainer at the gym for help with a new machine, or experiment with at-home workout programs.

It can be easy to lose sight of your physical fitness goals when there's so much activity to fill your days in college. However, if you prioritize staying fit, you'll better serve the rest of your personal, communal, and spiritual goals as you grow through these transformative years.

"For you were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body." - 1 Corinthians 6:20 (ESV)

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