There is no magic formula for physical activity. Different people need different amounts and there are countless ways to get active. You can start anytime and anywhere: outside, at home, on a field or court, or at a gym. You determine when, where and how much.
Benefits of physical activity are numerous and they include:
- increased energy
- reduced stress
- weight maintainance
- mood and confidence boosts
- improved sleep
- improved fitness
Physical activity also can help prevent and manage disease by lowering blood sugar levels, improving cardiovascular health, reducing back pain, and controlling frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
There’s no wrong way to do it, except to overdo it. Being active shouldn’t be painful, injurious or unfun. Exhaustion, extremely sore muscles, painful joints, and shortness of breath are the results of jumping in too hard and too fast. It is common for people to stop exercising because they get hurt, are afraid to get hurt, or think it doesn’t count unless it hurts. However, any amount of effort is a great start and every little bit counts.
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." —Michael Pollan
Many college diets lack certain important nutrients. Below are some to be aware of. When in doubt, just remember: the more whole, unprocessed foods you eat, the greater the chances that you’re getting what you need.
- IRON: This mineral is involved with moving oxygen throughout the body, and is used in many cell functions including digestion. Women and vegetarians are especially at risk for iron deficiency (anemia). Sources: red meat, dark chicken meat, fish, cooked kale, prune juice, potatoes with skin, cashews, legumes, fortified breads and cereals.
- CALCIUM: The body needs calcium for strong bones and teeth as well as cell division, nerve transmission and muscle contraction. Sources: dairy products, sardines and salmon canned with bones, tofu, legumes, cooked kale, broccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, fortified juices and cereals.
- VITAMIN D: This nutrient helps the body absorb calcium, helps move muscles and is used by the immune system. Deficiency leads to brittle bones. Sources: sunlight is the primary source, but some foods like cod liver oil, sun-dried mushrooms, fatty fish, free-range eggs and fortified milk also contain Vitamin D.
- FIBER: Fiber is essential for gastrointestinal health, heart health and satiety. It can prevent and relieve constipation and lower cholesterol levels as well as your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Sources: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds.
Disordered eating can occur at any time in life. It is more common during college years, and affects both men and women. Our media and culture promote an unrealistic, unattainable body ideal. Striving for this unnatural image while facing the pressures of college can lead some people to develop an eating disorder.
If you or a friend have frequent, nagging thoughts about food, weight or dieting, and you find these thoughts are interfering with your day to day life and the way you eat, it may be time to get help. You don't have to battle this alone.
HOW TO HELP A FRIEND with eating and body image issues
If you are reading this, chances are you are concerned about the eating habits, weight, or body image of someone you care about. Below are some ideas to help you help your friend. Supporting a friend through this time can be difficult or uncomfortable, so just seeking information is a good
- LEARN as much as you can about eating disorders. The National Eating Disorder Association is a good place to start.
- KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between facts and myths about weight, nutrition, and exercise. This will help you reason with your friend about any inaccurate ideas that may be fueling her or his disordered eating patterns
- BE HONEST AND OPEN about your concerns with the person who is struggling with eating or body image problems. Avoiding it or ignoring it won’t help.
- HAVE REALISTIC, FLEXIBLE EXPECTATIONS. Avoid making rules or promises, or setting expectations that you cannot or will not uphold. For example, “I promise not to tell anyone.” Or, “If you do this one more time, I’ll never talk to you again.” Your friend is responsible for his or her own actions and the consequences of those actions. You can listen, but remember, you are not their therapist, but their friend. Be sure to encourage them to seek professional help, especially if they talk to you repeatedly about these concerns.
- AVOID SKIN-DEEP COMPLIMENTS. Comment on your friend’s sparkling personality, academic successes, kindness or other accomplishments, rather than physique.
- BE A ROLE MODEL. Your sensible eating, reasonable exercise regimen and self-acceptance can show your friend a healthy alternative.
- TELL SOMEONE. It may seem difficult to know when, if at all, to tell someone else about your concerns, but it’s best to address body image or eating problems as early as possible.
Remember that you cannot force someone to seek help, change their habits or adjust their attitudes. You can make important progress in honestly sharing your concerns, providing support and knowing where to go for more information. People struggling with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder do need professional help. There is help available and there is hope.
Source: National Eating Disorders Association. www.NationalEatingDisorders.org
- Something Fishy
- National Eating Disorders Association
- Overeaters Anonymous
- National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance
- Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders
- About Face
- The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation
- Body Positive
- Gatorade Sports Science Institute
- American Council on Exercise
- Exercise Prescription
- MedLine Plus: Exercise & Physical Fitness
- Calorie Calculator
- Calories Per Hour