Maintaining a lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise can prove to be a daunting task for most individuals, but it is particularly daunting for college students.
With the constant flow of free food at campus events, multiple dining hall options, the element of late-night social eating, price of fresh groceries and ever-shifting diet trends, it is overwhelming for college students to determine what is best or most healthy to put into their bodies.
However, a healthy and balanced diet and exercise regimen is of the utmost importance to one’s health and stability as it can affect one’s studies, mental and emotional health, relationships with others and more.
Students are often warned prior to college that college is the time when health often takes a turn for the worst and fluctuates. Phrases like the “freshman 15” and “sophomore slump” strike fear into many as they worry about the effects college may take on their health.
Emily Edwards, sophomore in human development and family studies at Auburn, echoed this fear.
“I was super nervous coming into college in the subject of healthy eating," she said. "I had always heard everyone say that college was when your health tanked, but I was determined not to let that happen. It was most definitely a challenge, but I have found ways to maintain my health and accomplish my goals.”
Healthy, clean eating and regular, productive exercise is a particularly difficult feat because it requires something that most college students have little of: time.
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Although popular opinion may say that college students have the most amount of time out of any demographic, that is not necessarily the case at all times.
Demands of academics, work, future plans and goals, social outings and everything else in between often conflict and quickly fill schedules, leaving students with leftover moments at the end of the day, or random pockets of time in the middle of their day, to exercise and make wise choices about healthy living.
Caroline Dean, sophomore in pre-elementary education at Auburn, shared about her challenges with regular exercise in college in terms of a full schedule.
“It’s been hard to find time to exercise like I did in high school," Dean said. "It seems that due to the amount of things in my schedule just on an average day, that I never have time to squeeze in a run like I used to.”
It takes time to exercise effectively, time to meal prep, time to grocery shop and time to research what works best for each individual. When done thoroughly, though, the results and outcomes are only positive.
In the midst of packed schedules and never-ending to-do’s, students are also conflicted with what is most convenient versus what is going to benefit their health most in the long run. For some, convenience is a major factor in choosing a less healthy option over a more healthy one in terms of meals.
Although, Auburn University has recently undergone major changes to dining in attempts to offer healthier on-campus dining options that are quick, efficient and sustainable — all while supporting local businesses and farmers.
Additionally, the ins and outs of what is “healthy” versus what is “unhealthy” is constantly shifting, leaving students more confused than guided on what to do and what not to do in terms of their health.
Research can counteract this funky state of uncertainty and knowledge constraints about and lead to greater success in the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle for students. Although additional research is often the last desire of college students, it can prove to be the most beneficial for their health in the long run, especially if they are unsure of where to begin a health journey.
Research is also a necessary factor in furthering one’s health journey, since every diet trend and eating tip does not work for everyone. One must research specific aspects of nutrition and fitness in order to find what works best for them and tailor professional suggestions accordingly.
The struggle with convenience, the lack of time and the lack of funds are pressing issues for students who desire to live in the healthiest way possible. Achieving and maintaining a lifestyle as such is possible, though.
“I have definitely found ways to stay healthy," Edwards said. "I joined a group fitness class with Auburn Recreation, which is great accountability to stay physically healthy. Auburn also offers so many new options for healthier eating on campus."
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