Zena Al Maskari

A Healthy Body Is A Healthy Mind

We’ve all heard of the notorious “Fresher’s 15” and how it’s inevitable to put on a bit of weight in your first year of university. However, we rarely hear about how to avoid the dreaded 15 or how to overcome it. Here are some tips on keeping healthy and fit in the hustle and bustle that is university life.

A healthy body means a healthy mind. Firstly I’d like to address the fact that not everybody feels inclined to be active. That’s okay, but feeling bad about yourself isn’t. Remember, you want to be feeling your best, especially whilst you work hard at your degree.

That being said, it’s important not to get too caught up in working out or losing weight. Whatever your reasons for taking up exercise, remember it’s all about balance. Listen to your body and respect it. With this mindset you’ll much more easily achieve your long-term goal of staying fit and healthy.

 

  1. All journeys have to start somewhere: it’s up to you to break out of your routine and get your butt into shape – self-motivation is key!
  2. Set yourself a realistic goal. Take one step at a time, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself: it’s unhealthy and can be seriously de-motivating.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to others. Your journey is your own and your experience is unique. Everyone has different abilities and their own challenges to face.
  4. Always remember why you’re doing this and remember it’s for your HEALTH. Don’t fall into the trap of counting calories or becoming obsessed with being healthy – you’re doing this to be happy and should enjoy your journey!
  5. It’s so important to be aware of what you can do to best cater to your needs. The Internet is full of sites and blogs that have loads of great information on exercising and leading a healthy lifestyle.
  6. BALANCE – this is probably the most important tip. Anything outside balance is unhealthy. It’s good to be eating smart but it’s not good to become too obsessed with it.

 

To help keep track of your fitness journey there are loads of great apps available. My personal favourites are:

MyFitnessPal – you can keep a food diary, log your exercises and have a daily step goal. I love this app because it helps me keep on top of a healthy, balanced diet and I can track my fitness progress.

Nike Fitness Club – I recently discovered this app and it is GREAT. You can sign up for a fitness plan with specific workouts which the app suggests according to your needs. There are even workout plans by celebrities (like Ellie Goulding) so on days where you feel in a bit of a rut you can feel inspired to get moving!

 

Pinterest is also a great place to look up different kinds of workouts and exercises – like yoga, pilates, or simple stretches.

Joining a gym is great – and loads of gyms offer memberships at great prices or have student discounts. Your university should have a gym – why not join it? Or hunt around your local vicinity for great membership offers (don’t forget to check out the place before you join!): I opted for a monthly payment plan as I travel a lot – PureGym has hundreds of gyms around the country and amazing prices (about £15 per month, prices can vary though so be sure to check your local branch).

Alternatively, if you really are not a gym person, or simply cannot afford it, why not use the great outdoors? It’s free and fresh air is good for you. Also, make little lifestyle tweaks like taking the stairs instead of the lift when you can, and walking more often.

If you travel a lot, or find it hard to get to the gym especially around exam season, invest in some small exercise gear that’s light and portable. You can stay in shape on-the-go or use exercise as a great brain break with simple tools like resistance bands, a jump rope, and a yoga mat. Amazon has amazing affordable deals, and you can get students discounts on some items too.

 

Mix up your workouts; don’t stick to the same activity as you’ll get bored and end up losing motivation. Again, the internet is a great place for inspiration and you can find loads of workout ideas. Staying fit shouldn’t be a chore.

As well as taking up exercise and physical activity, another way to stay on top of your health is keeping track of what you eat.

Before I talk about food I’d like to emphasise the following point: there is no such thing as dieting. Remember you must always listen to your body and nourish it. Don’t skimp on foods and fall into the viciously destructive cycle of counting calories.

You should be eating a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat every day (not including additional nutrients and vitamins). There’s no point in exercising if you’re not eating healthily. Again, the principle of balance is so important here: remember to nourish yourself and indulge every now and then. I don’t believe in “cheat” meals; food is food and you should eat what you want, when you want. The key in all this is moderation.

A lot of students prefer to buy ready-made meals and processed, tinned foods because of cost. However, there are ways to save money and eat healthy. Here are some food tips that I’ve found quite useful:

 

  1. Buy frozen fruit and veg – you get year-round access and save so much more!

I love berries, and the fresh variety are so much more expensive than the frozen. In all honesty they taste the exact same when heated (it takes only a few seconds in the microwave!). I love to mix frozen berries into porridge.

Lidl has great deals on frozen fruit and veg (a bag of mixed veg is only 79p) and you’ll find that most supermarkets sell the frozen variety for way cheaper.

  1. Switch to wholegrain/wholewheat bread, cereal and pasta. Brown bread and pasta are way more nourishing and filling than their white and starchier counterparts – and tend to be slightly cheaper.
  2. Only go low fat if you really need to. Otherwise go for the full-fat version – yoghurt, milk, cheese. Fat (in moderation) is good for you! Your cells cannot function without it.

In fact, a lot of the low fat varieties of things like yoghurt and cheese are worse for you as there are added flavour supplements.

  1. Cut down on processed sugar and find your sugar sources in natural foods like fruit and veg or honey. Sugar in large amounts isn’t good for anybody. Again, moderation is key.
  2. Drink loads of water. This may sound gross, but a way to know if you’re drinking the right amount is by checking your pee – it should be translucent if you’re well hydrated.
  3. Don’t let yourself get hungry. It’s so easy to lose track of time in the craziness of university life (especially during exam season) but remember your brain cannot function properly if it is not being fed. A healthy body is a healthy mind! Try to eat three balanced meals a day and at least two nourishing snacks.
  4. Cut down on your meat intake – meat is expensive and not great for your gut if eaten too much. Things like “Meatless Monday” are good for saving money and the environment.

Something else to cut down on is alcohol. Ah booze, the staple of most students’ diets. It’s great for partying but not for your body. Remember, alcohol is a poison and at the end of the day does only cause more harm than good. When you’re drunk you’ll literally eat anything within a 10-mile radius – another reason why weight gain is so common in first year with all the fresher’s events. I have to be blunt here: getting drunk every other day of the week will not get you anywhere. Yeah, you’re young, wild and free but you’ve only got one body so treat it well. Also, you’ll find that cutting down on alcohol will do wonders for your wallet – it’s crazy how much is spent on booze and clubbing when you think about it. You could invest in other ways to make memories like travel or outings.

If you smoke – quit. There are literally no benefits in smoking and will only hold you back in your fitness journey. Again, you’ll save money and lower health risks – there are only benefits in quitting smoking!

The most important thing to remember in all of this is that being healthy is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t buy into crash dieting or binging; remember commitment, balance and moderation are key. It’s a lifestyle, not something you just switch on and off. Some things in life are so precarious, but your commitment to your health shouldn’t be.

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