Despite the importance of health and fitness being thrown at us by the media and government authorities alike, many college students still live predominantly unhealthy lives. A study conducted by Northwestern Medicine® and Northeastern Illinois University found that 95% of college students fail to eat the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, while less than 40% get sufficient physical activity as prescribed by the World Health Organization.
While eating healthy meals and staying fit can be a challenge even for the most enthusiastic of students, it can be downright brutal for someone who is lazier by nature. Thankfully, a number of hacks exist that will have even the most sluggish of college students getting in shape.
1. Walk a bit faster
We already know that walking is a great way to keep fit, but what if we simply don’t have the time (or motivation) to take long walks every day? The solution is simple: walk faster. Even if the only walking you do on a daily basis is getting to and from classes, you can still give your overall health a nice boost by walking with purpose instead of simply meandering. Brisk walking is known to not only help you maintain a healthy weight but can help prevent a variety of serious conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease, and high blood pressure.
2. Take the stairs
As tempting as it may be to use the elevator or escalator, don’t! Take the stairs to give your legs and heart a great workout. Although no one is expecting you to climb 10 flights of stairs three times a day, you can aim to make gradual progress. Start by riding up to the eighth floor and walking up the last two, or by walking up two flights and riding up the rest of the way. Regardless of how you choose to do it, even climbing just one flight of stairs a day is a big improvement from your previous none.
3. Get a bicycle
If you currently make use of public transport or your car to get around, consider investing in a bicycle. Not only will it save you money, it’ll help you get into shape too. Start out easy by biking only short distances at a time until you feel confident. You don’t even need a fancy bike, as you may find that you simply aren’t made for anything beyond biking around campus or town. But if you do find yourself wanting to navigate more treacherous terrain, consider investing in a more advanced mountain bike to make your outdoor excursions safer and more enjoyable.
4. Exercise for the duration of one or two songs
Does the mere thought of partaking in an hour-long cardio class have you breaking out in a cold sweat? Try something less intimidating. Working out for the duration of just one song a day can make a big difference to your fitness levels. We often fail to stick to lifestyle changes simply because we are overambitious when we start out.
According to Rob Fletcher, the creator of America's Next Great Trainer, committing to five minutes of exercise a day helps ignite a positive change in habits and also results in a welcome boost of confidence. An average song is about three minutes long, so working out to two average-length songs already has you overachieving those recommended five minutes—or just find one longer song to hit those five minutes. Whether you run to Post Malone’s latest hit or dance to Ariana Grande, getting your heart rate up and breaking a slight sweat will see you become fitter, stronger, and healthier in no time.
5. Shovel some snow
Shoveling snow is one of those chores that no one can escape if you live in an area that has snow. You may as well face the music and help shovel snow when needed. Not only will your efforts endear you to your friends and relatives, but it will also help you burn as many as 223 calories with just half an hour of shoveling, according to Harvard Medical School.
6. Do extra chores
Regardless of how much you hate them, there are household chores you just cannot escape. Whether you live in a dorm, your own apartment, or still at home, there are a variety of chores you can do that can improve your fitness levels. Sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping floors are all activities that will increase your heart rate and burn off some calories. Other chores that provide a healthy workout include raking leaves, dusting, doing laundry, and cleaning the garage. By putting aside as little as three minutes a day to do household chores, you can not only lose some weight but become significantly more fit as well.
7. Get enough sleep
Between studying for tests and trying to maintain an active social life, chances are you are not getting nearly enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults get between seven to nine hours of sound sleep a night. And often, social media and other technology-related distractions make this more difficult. Make an effort to switch off all your electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to going to sleep. This will help avoid mental stimulation that keeps you awake at night, so you can get enough sleep to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to engage in some physical activity the next day.
Regardless of how naturally lazy you may be, there are always small changes you can make to your daily routine to help you stay in shape. Even if you only implement one change at a time, you‘ll soon find yourself looking and feeling better than ever before.
Find more hacks and everyday advice in our Student Life section.