With the business of a new semester, it’s easy to overlook all of the different aspects of your well-being, such as your physical, mental and sexual health. However, doing so can be detrimental to your body and end up making life even more stressful than it already is. Don’t worry, though! We have a few easy hacks to make your week a whole lot healthier.
1. Walk to class every day
Walking to class is an easy way to squeeze in some exercise. Dr. Roy Stefanik, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, says you should always choose to walk if time, weather and safety permit. “Biking to classes is another option if your campus is bike-friendly,” Dr. Stefanik says.
Choosing to walk could be more beneficial than you think. According to registered nurse Coleen Koralek, walking a mere 20 extra minutes per day on average will burn seven pounds of body fat per year. Additionally, on average, every minute of walking can extend your life by one and a half to two minutes!
“Just make sure you are dressed correctly, and your backpack is fitted correctly and not too heavy!” Dr. Stefanik says. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that the weight of a backpack should be less than 10 to 15 percent of a person’s body weight. If your backpack is heavier than that, it may injure your muscles and joints and eventually lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain.
2. Choose your caffeine vice
Although caffeine can serve as a perfect pick-me-up, whether it’s soda, coffee or tea, it’s easy to abuse. Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at California State University, says that excess caffeine can lead to side effects like jitteriness, racing heartbeat, nervousness and insomnia.
So how much is too much? According to the Food and Drug Administration, 600 mg (four to seven cups of coffee) of caffeine or more each day is too much. While this sounds like a lot, when you factor in other caffeinated beverages and even things like chocolate, the total adds up fast. To remain healthy and keep your caffeine fix, make a choice! Koralek says that coffee, soda and tea alone are fine, but you shouldn’t be combining these and other sources of caffeine throughout the day.
As long as you stick to one source, caffeine actually has a multitude of health benefits, like stimulating hair growth and preventing type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. A study done by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research showed that caffeine also boosts memory consolidation.
3. Carry around a reusable water bottle
The health benefits of drinking water are more than enough reason to up your H2O levels. Some of the many advantages of drinking enough water include mood improvement, prevention of some types of cancer, increased energy, protected joints and cartilage, improved heart health, improved kidney function and more. “Water is always going to be the gold standard – clear, clean and good for you and your body,” Dr. Durvasula says.
Koralek says the adequate daily intake of water for women is about nine cups, debunking what you’ve probably heard about drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. The easiest way to fulfill this recommended amount is to buy a reusable water bottle. For water bottles on the smaller side, to fill it seven to eight times a day, and for larger ones, four to five times.
4. Always have condoms with you
Sex is a healthy part of our lives, so make sure you keep it that way! Contraception is essential for both preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Condoms can do both of these—and the best part is that they’re portable! You should always keep condoms with you, whether in your purse, car, etc., since you never want to be in a situation where you need one but don’t have one.
“Some women may be apprehensive when it comes to keeping condoms on them, whether it’s because they don’t want others to find out and judge them or because they’re simply embarrassed,” Koralek says. However, she encourages us to stray away from this stigma. The possible embarrassment or shame is not worth obtaining an STI or an unwanted pregnancy.
5. Volunteer at least once a week
Melanie Ludwig, owner of Prestige Fitness in Manchester, New Hampshire, and an adjunct faculty member in the exercise science department at Manchester Community College, says that mental health may be the area of health college students ignore the most.
One of the best things you can do to improve this ignored aspect of your health is volunteer! Koralek says that volunteerism is guaranteed to make you feel good. Additionally, a study done by UnitedHealth Group showed that volunteering is linked to not only better mental health, but better physical health as well.
There is a wide variety of causes to choose from. To find specific organizations, you can visit Volunteer.gov for opportunities in your area, or you can talk to student services at your school to find opportunities on campus.
6. Take an exercise class for credit
If you can fit it into your schedule, take a workout class! Most colleges have a variety of options, such as Pilates, yoga, spinning and more. Dr. Durvasula says that these classes are a great option that will force you to exercise and get active!
Typically, these classes range from 50 to 90 minutes long. The American Heart Association recommends you do 30 minutes of exercise a day, five times a week. Whether the class you sign up for meets daily or it meets two or three times a week, work that time in with additional exercise to get the recommended amount!
7. Don’t drink more than seven alcoholic drinks per week
With the amount of drinking that happens on so many college campuses, you should be extra careful about how alcohol affects your health.
“Women don’t metabolize alcohol the same as men, so [you] have to be more careful,” Dr. Stefanik says. This difference is due to women weighing less than men on average and due to all of the empty calories found in most alcoholic beverages, whether it be beer, wine or distilled spirits.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines a standard drink as roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Keeping this in mind, the NIAAA also says that a woman shouldn’t drink any more than seven drinks per week, and no more than three drinks on a single day.
8.Wash your hands
While this may seem silly to even point out, washing your hands frequently is SO important! When you think about it, we’re constantly using items that others have previously used, like desks and a multitude of other things around campus. We’re also always in close contact with others, especially roommates. Koralek says that simply washing your hands can prevent a large number of illnesses. You can also purchase a mini hand sanitizer bottle and keep it with you—while still making an effort to wash your hands regularly, of course!
9. Pleasure yourself at least once a week
As women, we shouldn’t be afraid of our own bodies. “For most women, masturbation and self-touch are a healthy and normal part of sexual health,” Durvasula says. As long as you’re comfortable with the idea of masturbation, there are actually many health benefits to pleasuring yourself. For example, Koralek says that it can relieve tension and stress and even help you sleep.
In addition to the benefits, sexual health educator Dr. Rachel Born says that masturbation is essential for gaining awareness about your body and its abilities.
“If you have a roommate, you can always masturbate in the shower with a waterproof vibrator,” she says. However, “If you’ve never masturbated, read/watch whatever turns you on first, then feel around for your pleasure spots,” she says.
No matter what you do, it’s important to remember that your sexual health is just as important as your physical and mental health!
At the end of the day, no matter how busy you are, it’s important to prioritize your health. Dr. Stefanik says that prevention is the best medicine, and he’s absolutely right! Taking care of your body mentally and physically is the best way to feel good all around.