Don't put healthy living on the backburner

Don't put healthy living on the backburner

Staying healthy should be a goal students work on daily. CW | Marie Walker

“Health is not going to be a one-time factor in your life, but something you continuously work with,” Vigna said. “At the same time, it shouldn’t feel like a struggle or something that’s going to be hard on you. Health is engaging in something that is going to better yourself. I am a health educator, and I occasionally enjoy McDonald’s because it’s okay to enjoy foods like that, just not in excess. Generally, I’m going to pick the healthier option, but I’m not going to ever completely cut something out of my diet unless it makes me ill.”

Vigna said heath impacts everyone differently. Instead of trying to figure out what everyone else is doing, she said the number one goal is to figure out what’s important for your own body in regards to exercise, self-care and nutrition.

“Health is not a one size fits all mentality,” Vigna said. “It just has to be what works for that individual person and what makes their body feel good.”

Habits of food or exercise are healthiest when done 
in moderation.

Time to exercise

Melondie Carter, the assistant director of the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, said the best way to approach exercise is to work out a minimum three times a week for 30 minutes, or to make sure that you are getting 10,000 steps a day. As the associate dean and professor in Capstone College of Nursing, Carter said her advanced nursing degree taught her that taking care of health is especially important in college years. The 10,000 steps a day can be measured using a pedometer of any sort and is also recommended by the American Heart Association.

“Pedometers can be found in a FitBit, an Apple Watch or simply in any smart phone apps like My Fitness Pal and others to make sure you are getting 10,000 steps a day,” Carter said.

A pedometer can also be found just by going to the “Health” tool found on an iPhone, where it counts steps throughout the day. Or, students without smartphones can also purchase pedometers at stores like Target and Wal-Mart. Carter also describes how fitting exercise into your routine has many long-term benefits on the body, even adding 10 years to your life.

“Exercising prevents heart disease because it increases lung capacity,” Carter said. “It helps with mood and depression by increasing serotonin levels in your brain. Exercising provides oxygenation in your brain, which prevents Alzheimer’s as you age, and it also improves your endocrine system and prevents diabetes, which has become a huge problem in our country.”

George Brown, the executive director at the Student Recreation center, conducted a study on campus where he evaluated how exercise affected students’ 
academic performance.

“Dr. George Brown found that stronger students tended to exercise more,” Carter said. “So I encourage our students prior to tests that they go out, walk, or exercise or do some type of activity for 30 minutes the evening before a test.”

Peter Arvanitis, a senior majoring in biology and psychology and vice president of outreach at Project Health, said a lot of students make working out a priority.

“People will say ‘I can’t workout, I don’t have time for that,’ but there’s always time,” Arvanitis said. “For example, I have a bunch of friends who started waking up earlier this semester to workout. They’ll wake up at 7 a.m. and go over to have a quick workout before their 10 a.m. class. Just things like that are the biggest example of people taking ownership and responsibility for what they know they need to do.”

A healthy lifestyle

A student in one of Carter’s nursing classes significantly transformed his health by beginning the habit of an active lifestyle, while making healthy decisions on what he was eating or drinking.

“One of my male students in my community health course actually made that kind of transformation,” Carter said. “He came up to me to talk after class when I was talking about how it’s important to move and important to eat healthy. He started eating right, exercising, drinking more water and monitoring his health with a food diary. His activity level really changed dramatically. Before, he wasn’t exercising at all.”

A food diary, Carter said, is where a person writes what they’re eating for their meals and snacks everyday. There are also smart phone apps that can do the same thing, such as My Fitness Pal. To stay nutritious in your daily foods, Carter said to make conscious decisions about eating. Carter recommends looking for a variety of color in your snacks and meals.

“Five fruits and five vegetables are ideal and this also boosts your immune system,” Carter said. “A lot of college students really can’t afford to eat the five fruits and veg combo a day, but it’s important to try to do as well with it as they can. This can be three veggies and two fruits or just a combination of five. The fruit and vegetable combination is really important for promoting health and boosting the immune system.”

The immune system poses a problem for many college students. When beginning to get sick, it’s important to take advantage of the resources the Student Health Center (SHC).

“It’s really important that you do that, particularly when you’re sick so that you don’t spread infection,” Carter said. “Yearly checkups are also important. You can get a complete physical at the SHC.”

Eating right

Students are encouraged to talk to a professional, like Sheena Gregg, a registered and licensed dietitian available at the SHC, about any kind of improvement they want to have in their eating habits.

“Any student can go see her, and its only $20 to go see her for one session. That’s really great because if you go into a private practice, it will be much more expensive than that. She also specializes with college students, so she knows the population,” Vigna said.

There’s also a dietitian within Bama Dining who who will work with students who have dietary restrictions or food allergies for free. Holly Grof, the Dining Services Coordinator, can be emailed at

Tatum Roessler, a senior majoring in public relations, visited Gregg for assistance with Celiac disease, which makes her sensitive to gluten, and she said it helped in so many ways.

“If people still think that they can’t eat because of a certain food allergy, dining halls have a dietitian within Bama Dining who will work with you specifically for that,” Vigna said. “She just needs to know that food allergy exists.”

Roessler cooks nutritious meals in her apartment three times a week and recognizes that nutritional eating should be a goal for college students.

“Cooking is really not complicated,” Roessler said. “I think that so many people see stuff on Pinterest and they think cooking is complicated or it takes forever and is so much work. But if you learn a few simple things, you can have healthy food that takes maybe ten or fifteen minutes to cook.”

On campus, Julia’s Marketplace usually has a wide variety, and Starbucks has nutritious KIND Bars to choose from.

Project Health and Gamma are student organizations that you may have seen running health huts around campus in between classes.

“Project Health and Gamma are really good resources because they provide the quick things that you do need to know about to eat healthy,” Vigna said.

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