Student Blog: Staying Healthy While at University
Year 3 - Master of Chiropractic
So you may be wondering, how can I help myself stay healthy whilst at university, and who’s this guy to tell me so? Well, my name is Ben Goodall I am a Year 3 student of chiropractic at AECC University College and I am the current British tumbling gymnastics champion for Mens 17-21 age group, and number 7 in the world for the mens 17-21 age group, and in this blog I’d like to introduce to you the 4 pillars of health: Food, sleep, movement, community and how you can implement these as a student on a tight budget balancing the work hard play hard lifestyle!
How you eat not only influences your physical appearance, it also impacts your focus, intelligence, energy, mood and many other factors pertinent to your studying success and overall wellbeing. A diet based around meat, fish, starchy and non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats is believed by many to be ideal for this. Students often will complain that being healthy is too expensive? Well, budgeting is a great way to make sure you are making sensible choices when you buy, and it can help you plan ahead to save for all the exciting seminars available to students! If pen and paper is too old school for you then Fudget is a fantastic free phone app that allows you to set up budgets such as those for food, social events, travel costs etc. whilst keeping an eye on your expenditure. I like to divide my student loan into weeks and aim to stick to a weekly budget. This makes me feel in control, keeps stress down and allows some luxuries when I see I’ve saved.
A great tip when shopping healthily is to try to stick to the perimeter of the store where you find the fruits, vegetables and meats, only dipping into the centre for things like eggs and coffee rather than the ready meals, chocolates and biscuits. "But Ben, ready meals, chocolates, biscuits and crisps are so convenient!" Yes and so is urinating on the pavement rather than waiting until you get home, but you wouldn't give in to that! In all seriousness, convenience and time-efficiency is a big thing for university students; so whats the solution? Bulk meal prepping; making one pot meals such as beef chilli, curry, stir fry's and cooking vegetables, rice and potatoes in large quantities at the start and middle of the week means you may only have to cook twice in a week and have all the healthy food you need! We are all human though, so I am not impartial to also having junk food to hand as an occasional treat and to help compliance to otherwise F1 car equivalent brain and body fuel.
As a chiropractic student I learn a lot about the importance of not only good movement, but also regular movement throughout the day for the health of the neuromusculoskeletal system. Movement and exercise is also important for tip-top brain functioning and ensuring you stay a happy student.
The AECC University College gym is a great way to get some exercise especially at only £60 for the whole year! Why not combine the 3rd pillar of health, 'community', with your movement by joining one of the gym classes, most of which are free with the usual gym membership, ranging from Crossfit to Jui-jitsu to Tabata and Spin classes. If they’re not your cup of tea, you can start up your own class! Now, of course, you don’t have to do intense exercise only to get benefits, low intensity movements are just as important for the body and also for the space between your ears. Walking is a fantastic activity and given AECC University College's location on the south west coast in Bournemouth, taking a stroll to the beach during a study break is a very time efficient, free activity that compliments good health.
Mental health is much more in the public eye these days. With the advancements in technology we have become more disconnected from each other and are forever comparing our seemingly meagre lives to the ‘exciting’ lives of our friends and so called 'Insta idols'. In reality these Instagram posts are merely a snapshot of only the positive parts of these peoples lives and their holiday from 3 years ago on repeat. It also means we are staring more and more at our phones and not taking in the beauty of the world that is around us. We have become desensitised and our reality now feels rather boring without the likes of Snapchat. The solution, unplug! Put the phone down. It should be a tool for communicating with peers, checking your uni timetable, organising socials, looking up anatomy and listening to music to aid your day... not drag you down. Download an app such as Moment to keep track of your phone usage and provide reminders when you’ve been mindlessly scrolling for too long!
One of the great uses of smartphone technology for mental health is some of the great apps it provides. Two of my favourites are called Calm; a meditation app that takes you through guided meditations for stress relief, confidence, focus, forgiveness and many more, and Brain.fm; music for studying, sleeping, relaxing and meditating. There are also some great books that I would recommend to everyone: Chimp Management goes to the top of that list, teaching you to tame the chimp in your mind that wants you to snooze the alarm, eat the whole damn cake, panic when your meet your new girlfriend’s parents, and initiate road rage. When it comes to studying try not to study for long periods at a time, its better to break it up into chunks of between 25-40 minutes, or whatever works best for you. Better still, pair it with the focus sounds on brain.fm!
Sleep is so important for health. Poor sleep is associated with states such as poor blood glucose control, increased stress, increased pain, irritability, visceral fat deposition, poor memory and poor recovery from exercise. Now, I’m no party-pooper, everyone loves a good rave but it would be sensible to ‘look after the garden enough that it can handle a party every now and again’, that garden being you.
Getting to bed at a sensible hour will make your days more enjoyable, more productive and will allow you to party that little harder. But how can you attain good sleep? Well good sleep hygiene would be a start. This typically involves dimming the lights a few hours before bed, using ‘night shift’ on your phone and downloading F.lux on your computer to emit more orange light (sleep inducing) compared to blue (wakefulness inducing), and try to avoid reading material related to your course close to bedtime if this is going to leave your mind spinning just as you hit the sack. For a lot of people though, this isn’t enough to settle them regularly for bed, so implementing some mindfulness on the calm app, listening to sleep music on brain.fm before bed or taking a contrast shower whereby you turn the tap to really hot, then cool, then hot, then cool, a minute at a time for a few rounds, finishing on cool before hopping into bed, can do wonders for your ability to get good beauty sleep.
Humans are a social species. Having a community of friends, or fellow ‘chimps in your troop’ is essential for good health. Some even say it’s the secret to centenarian’s long lives; a quality social life! So yes, partying with friends is good for the community pillar, but why not increase your efficiency and pair it with movement as alluded to earlier. And no, texting and messaging and scrolling through Facebook is not the same as actual friendly company in terms of its impact on our health and wellbeing. If you are moving to university, leaving your friends behind, trying to fit in and find a new ‘troop’ away from home can be daunting, but that’s why Arrival's Week exists. Both the Students' Union and the University College provide lots of events throughout enrolment and induction to help you settle in to university life. Even if you aren’t a party animal, there are always events to get stuck into. Not only will this be good for your health and wellbeing, it can help fend off any homesickness you might be experiencing which Student Ambassador, Charley Bennett wrote a fantastic blog post on.
Discover more about student life at AECC University College and find out about health and wellbeing in our community.
Ben Goodall, Student Ambassador