Adopting good habits can help college students stay healthy

It’s back-to-school time and, for some newly minted college freshmen, it’s the first time they’ll be managing their own health without a concerned parent hovering nearby.

Are there things college students can do to stay healthy at school?

Definitely, says Laurice Jones, an advanced practice registered nurse and associate director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Student Health Center, adding that “some of this sounds very simple and very basic, but it works.”

Work regular exercise into your schedule. That doesn’t have to mean going to the gym, Jones says, but “find something you enjoy doing, and just move around.”

“Walking around campus to your classes is a good activity,” Jones says, and so is playing intramural sports, or even pickup games, on campus.

Eat a healthful, balanced diet. “I think students get very busy and want to go with the easiest thing, and sometimes that’s fast food,” Jones says.

Instead, when making food choices — even on a tight schedule or tight budget — “try to pick healthier choices,” Jones says. “And there are healthy choices on campus.”

Drink plenty of water. “That’s very important,” Jones says, and “the more active you are, the more water you may need. Again, sometimes students want to go with the caffeine, the coffee and the sodas, and they forget that water is very important.”

Try to get nine hours of sleep at night and try to develop “regular sleeping habits,” Jones says.

“I know some people work night shifts,” she adds, but “be as consistent as you can.”

Pay attention to managing stress. “Students sometimes really overextend themselves with obligations socially and academically, and they’re also working, so it’s important to really balance all of those areas,” Jones says.

Develop “health awareness,” Jones says. Given the close quarters in which students study and live, get a flu shot, wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing, and don’t share eating and drinking utensils.

Finally, make yourself aware of health and safety resources on campus, including the student health center and student counseling center, and check out health education and wellness programs they may offer.

Many of the programs and services they offer “are no charge for students,” Jones says.

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