Encourage Students to Exercise and Eat Right

As the weather improves our students often feel like they have no time to enjoy being outside.  The end of the semester is approaching and they need to double down on studies, projects and preparing for finals.  Many are also still on the hunt for summer jobs or internships and may be sorting out where they want to live in the fall.  Students may call home feeling overwhelmed and feeling like they have no control over the stress in their lives.

This type of call can be a true teachable moment to remind them that part of growing up is taking control of the choices we make and the way we spend our time. They can choose what to eat and how much to eat. They have control over choosing to exercise regularly and having enough sleep at night.  Helping your student to make positive choices about nutrition, exercise, and sleep can go a long way towards a successful semester.

Exercise can be particularly important for students who spend much of their time sitting in classes or labs. Help your student find solutions to typical justifications like:

  • I can’t find time
  • My knee is giving me trouble
  • It is too hot or too cold
  • I get tired so quickly
  • I hate running or exercising

We all experience challenges in our lives. That is a part of life. Ask your student: How can you tackle those limitations and make exercise or other wellness activities a routine part of every day?

If your student does not have a daily exercise routine, encourage them to start with just 15 minutes of low intensity activity a day. Encourage them to increase the duration and intensity about 10% every week (that’s about 1.5 minutes more in week #2). Note: Students with disabilities should work individually with the Rec. Center staff to understand the types and amounts of physical activity appropriate for them. Students can run, walk, go to the Rec Center, participate in wheelchair basketball, practice meditation and yoga, do aerobics, play intramural sports, and practice self-care activities to improve the physically strengths and stay mentally sound.  They will feel the difference every week as they get stronger. Talk to them about setting exercise goals for themselves and for their physical and mental health. In addition, encourage them to find a running/workout partner since this is very helpful to staying motivated. The joy of reaching the goal is one of the best personal achievements.

Eating right is very important for a healthy lifestyle as well.  Encourage them to follow these simple rules – eat a good breakfast and at least three meals a day; eat plenty of foods rich in fiber; limit sugar intake and drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration; and diversify food intake – UMass Dining offers countless choices of nutritional and healthy food options.

Here are some great links to UMass health and wellness resources:

UMass Amherst, with its magnificent Western Mass location and its beautiful campus, is a great place for students to prepare themselves to face the real world – academically as well as by building a strong mind and body.

Benny Joseph is an experienced Marathon runner and the parent of a Computer Science Major, UMass Amherst Class of 2018.