You have three exams, two quizzes and four excruciatingly long work shifts before the weekend.  Your friends want to hang out, your parents are nagging you to come visit them and you’re trying to figure out just when you’re going to have time to work off all those quesadillas you scarfed down during “Mexican Day” at the cafeteria.

Getting fit is easier with the facilities provided at MSU, like IM West. Photo credit: Cayden Royce

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.  Being a student and juggling multiple responsibilities sometimes leaves little time to dedicate to maintaining that ideal healthy lifestyle.  The good news is, no matter how little time you have to commit to working out, the effort you’re able to put in each day will help you reach all of your fitness and academic goals in the future.

Fitness experts agree that even 10 minutes a day can lead to a better tomorrow for your physical and mental wellbeing.  And let’s face it—we all have at least 10 minutes to dedicate to some vigorous exercise in order to get healthier.

The first step of any good fitness routine is to decide that you’re willing to work toward progress, not perfection. MSU kinesiology instructor Keri Morrison is a Certified Personal Trainer and has many years of experience dealing with the various struggles people face when trying to fit fitness into a busy schedule. Her advice is to plan ahead as much as possible.

Get Fit

“Let’s face it, life doesn’t always go as planned. Have a plan A and a plan B,” Morrison said. “If you planned on going for a walk and it is raining out, then stay inside and do a body workout of squats, lunges, push-ups and planks.”

Another struggle college students face is trying to find space to workout in our ridiculously small dorm rooms or tiny, off-campus, shared apartments.

Morrison suggests using body weight, tubing, air balls and dumbbells for those frigid Michigan days when you just can’t bear to be outside for anything other than commuting to classes.

But when the weather is tolerable and you could use a breath of fresh air to get your head out of the books and your roommate’s nose out of your business, it may be a good time to go for a walk or ride around campus. That bike ride, walk or jog around campus is much more enjoyable when you’re not focused on how late you’re going to show up to that 8 a.m. class from hell.

Eat Healthy

Another thing to remember while trying to get fit is that nutrition is important, too.  Even if you’re committed to an intense workout routine, if you’re doing keg stands and eating pizza every Thursday through Sunday, you’re not going to see great results.  Consider eating healthier and you will easily see improvements in your fitness progress and exercise endurance.

For many of us busy students with classes, jobs, and social lives, it may be hard to plan meals.  Instead of giving into vending machine temptation, certified yoga instructor Katie Clark recommends bringing healthy snacks for the long days away from home.

“Snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, apples, bananas, low fat popcorn, protein or fruit bars, breakfast bars, oatmeal packets, slices of green pepper–these are all quick and easy foods to eat on the go and they’re not too heavy to carry around,” Clark explains.

Make a Schedule

Clark also mentions that getting into a fitness routine is easiest when you can be consistent and avoid skipping days just because the timing doesn’t seem totally feasible.  For example, Clark points out “a half hour would be ideal, but I’ve learned not to skip it, even if you just have a few minutes.” She especially encourages students to try yoga in our small apartments or dorms.

“[Yoga] works awesome in small spaces. You only need the size of a yoga mat,” Clark said.

If you’re like me and have a pretty limited knowledge base of yoga poses and techniques, Clark recommends checking out a website called Yoga Tune Up. 

“Some poses can be done on a wall, so even a hallway works.  Also, seriously, some yoga poses can be done before you roll out of bed in the morning,” Clark added.

Exercising in bed? Why not! If you’re looking for some new positions to try (ahem…I’m still talking about yoga), Clark recommends ‘child’s pose,’ a lying down spinal twist, or a bound angle pose.  Luckily, all of these can be found online at the Yoga Tune Up website or at YogaJournal.com, in case you’re not familiar.

If you’re more concerned with using exercise as a form of stress relief or as a tool for maintaining your sanity during the semester, yoga with meditation is also beneficial.  Including meditation into your workout routine can be awesome for your mental health.

Clark explains that even if it’s only 2-5 minutes before walking out the door to sit in silence and focus on breath, meditation can really help calm you down and prepare for the day.  You may also be interested to know that regular exercise can improve your grades.

So we can get in shape AND get a 4.0! That’s the dream. A study by Saginaw Valley State University in 2010 reported that students who exercised vigorously seven days a week had G.P.A.’s that were, on average, 0.4 points higher than those who didn’t exercise.  That’s quite the incentive to change up your routine, right?

Living a healthy lifestyle can help you look fab in those party dresses and help you land on the Dean’s list.  Of course, it won’t happen overnight, but we’re all capable of positive change. Every single one of us has the drive to make a positive change in the world and with themselves. After all, we are Spartans.

But if you’re too focused on the lack of time you can dedicate to working out, Morrison reminds us: “If you only have 10 minutes per day, that is better than nothing! It all adds up to a healthier you!”

 

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