How and Why to Stay Fit In College In a More Virtual World

At this moment you are looking at a screen, and likely sitting down. Consider how much time you do this throughout your day as you check your phone, catch that Snapchat, watch Netflix, browse YouTube, in addition to your work or school work that is often done electronically. The number is likely large, and research would say significantly larger than you estimate. I’m not here to judge, and you are not alone. We know that adults on average spend more than 12 hours looking at a screen daily as they consume five times more information than their counterparts 50 years ago.

Our world has changed, and not just in terms of screens being at our fingertips 24/7. More and more jobs and schoolwork are completed at desks behind screens or operating equipment with a push of a button where work used to be completed manually. Fewer people walk or bike to jobs or school, and many of us don’t even leave the comfort of our homes. And by the time we are done for the day, our leisure time is built around screens more than ever before.

Technological advancements of screens and equipment have brought mankind many wonderful things, but they’ve also made us our own worst enemies when it comes to health. Given the option, most of us will take the easier, more convenient option for getting things done, or getting places with the help of technology. While that isn’t necessarily a concern, we do need to strike some balance between doing so for work and school and what we do during our leisure time so that we are moving more and looking at screens less. So how can that be done in college and why is it important?

Some Tips to Help You Move More

How it can be done is truly quite simple, but besides technology getting in the way, we often fail to hold ourselves accountable and create habits. There are also many external factors that impact us such as the amount of homework assigned, work schedules, family concerns, and more.

This list gives some introductory tips to help you overcome these to stay (or become) fit while in college.

  • Schedule movement. When you start filling out that planner for the semester make sure to include times specific for being physically active, and also to sit down and eat, sleep, and take time for other self-care practices.
  • Set reminders. Use a watch or phone to set alarms to remind you to move. For example, when you’re studying for an exam, after about 45 minutes your brain needs a break. This is a perfect time to get up and walk for 15 minutes.
  • Maximize the mini. Being physically active doesn’t have to mean going for an hour long run. Even 10 minutes chunks of an activity you enjoy that works your muscles or gets your heart rate up is enough when spread out over a few times a day.
  • Take advantage of campus. At Luther, we, like many campuses, are privileged to have miles of trails, beautiful scenery, fitness facilities, clubs, and a great outdoor, intramural, and recreational services program so you can find something right here at home you enjoy.
  • Take the stairs. Capitalize on easy opportunities, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator in your residence hall and academic buildings. Similarly, you can do things like park further away from buildings, and walk or bike instead of drive.
  • Talk instead of type. Instead of texting someone or emailing them, walk across the building or campus to talk with them in person. You’ll not only get some activity in, but the boost from the in-person social connection rather than the screen time.
  • Get social support. Whether it is being active with a friend, or simply talking to someone about your goals, you will be more successful in reaching them if you seek the support of others. You can also find support from campus resources. At Luther we have free health and wellness coaches, a dietitian, and personal trainer on staff.
  • Maximize technology. Take a break from Netflix and access one of a million fitness videos on YouTube you can do in the comfort of your own residence hall room with no equipment necessary.
  • Skip the equipment. The wellness trend of workplace equipment such as standing desks, under the desk bikes, and other equipment is making its move to college students. While these items seem great at the start they don’t solve the root problem of being stuck in front of a screen. They can actually lead to physical health ailments if used incorrectly, and more often than not they get used for a week or two and then end up collecting dust.

And doing these things does more than boost your physical health. Most of us recognize that being physically active, eating mindfully, and getting quality sleep will help us ward off chronic diseases and live a healthy life, but it is also tied to other areas of health. For example, physical activity has significant benefits for managing depression, anxiety and ADHD. It is likely the best stress management tool that exists and it also helps us to sleep.

As a college student these are all key to academic success and managing healthy relationships, so turn off that screen for a bit and get moving!