As a college student, your life is filled with classes, papers, exams, deadlines and extra-curricular activities. With so much to do, sometimes hitting the gym is the last thing on your mind. While it may seem irrelevant, health and fitness are actually important factors in the college experience.

Being fit makes you look good, feel good, and creates healthy lifestyle habits you will carry throughout life.   Tweet This! Exercise is also known to help reduce effects of stress, which runs rampant through college campuses. Not to mention it helps ward off the dreaded “freshman 15.”

It’s easy to see that health and fitness is important, but who has time? When most college students hear the word “exercise” they think about hours and hours in the gym. Here we see the root of the problem. Students don’t know how much exercise they need to be healthy so assume they don’t have time. In reality, most students do have the time.   Tweet This!

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. Broken down into five days, that’s only 30 minutes per day! Students can exercise at any time of day, whatever fits into his/her schedule.

Early risers can perform a morning workout. Morning exercise enhances mental focus, revs up your metabolism earlier in the day, and helps regulate your sleep schedule.   Tweet This! This is a good habit to form in college because it will support morning productivity as you progress into your career. You will come in ready to work while your coworkers drag in half asleep.

Another convenient time to work out is midday or around lunchtime. Many students have a morning filled with classes and labs. A midday workout helps clear your mind from morning stress and prepares you for the rest of the day.   Tweet This! This works better for those who stay up late working or studying. Evening workouts are also a good option.

Many campus wellness and recreation centers have evening fitness classes. Working out in a group with an instructor is helpful to the college student who is new to health and fitness. Evening workouts are good for de-stressing after a long day filled with frustrating professors, annoying roommates, and stacks of never-ending assignments. The health benefits are the same throughout, whether you exercise in the morning, afternoon, or at night. It mostly depends on your schedule and when you need to de-stress.   Tweet This!

Now you know why you need to exercise, how much you need to exercise, and when to exercise, but what are you supposed to do when you get to the gym? You can’t just look at the equipment and get fit (unfortunately). There are a few different ways to go about this. In many wellness and recreation centers on campus, there are certified trainers on staff. They can guide you toward specific fitness goals. If you would rather do it on your own, there are some simple guidelines you can follow for each workout session.

As stated before, ACSM suggests 150 minutes of exercise per week. That breaks down to 30 minutes per day, five days a week. Three of these days should be moderate intensity aerobic exercise or cardio. The remaining two days should be resistance training or lifting. Cardio promotes healthy heart and lung function, weight loss, reduces the risk for heart disease and cancer, and provides many other health benefits. Lifting can increase and maintain bone density, increase lean muscle mass, and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. It is important to incorporate both forms of exercise into your weekly routine. To give you an idea of what a weekly plan looks like, I have included an example below. You can use this as a guide to form your own program, or you can use this one specifically.

Monday: Cardio

Warm-up: 1 minute walk followed by static stretches
Exercise: 30 minute jog/walk intervals (jog for 7 minutes, walk for 3 minutes; repeat 3 times)

Tuesday: Lifting

Warm-up: 1 minute walk, leg swings, static stretches

Exercises (two sets of 10-15 reps each):

  • Body weight squats
  • Flat dumbbell bench press
  • Seated low rows
  • Body weight lunges
  • Tricep extensions
  • Bicep curls
  • Abdominal crunches
  • Supine lateral heel touches

Wednesday: Cardio

Warm-up: 1 minute walk followed by static stretches
Exercise: 30 minute stationary bike ride

Thursday: Lifting

Warm-up: 1 minute walk, leg swings, static stretches
Exercises (two sets of 10-15 reps each):

  • Body weight split squats
  • Pushups
  • Lat pull-downs
  • Body weight side lunges
  • Triceps dips
  • Hammer curls
  • Side planks (both sides; 10-20 seconds)
  • Front planks (10-20 seconds)

Friday: Cardio

Warm-up: 1 minute walk followed by static stretches
Exercise: 15 minute jog + 15 minute stationary bike ride

For lifting days, experiment with the weight you use for each exercise. Find the weight that allows you to do the prescribed amount of reps but still exhausts your muscles. If the exercises start becoming easier, increase the intensity of the cardio by jogging or pedaling faster, and increase the intensity of the lifting by increasing the weight used or increasing the reps you do for each set. You can also add another set for each exercise if time allows.

Health and fitness isn’t out of reach for the college student. All it takes is a little time management and the drive to be healthy.   Tweet This! College is an investment. You’re investing your time and money to reach your goals and create a better future for yourself. Spending some of that time on your health and fitness will only help you in the long run.

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