Healthy habits: how to make changes

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A college lifestyle can differ from living at home with parents.

Most days in high school may have been more active, including a government-approved lunch and the stress of “adulting” was never a thought on the mind.

The shock of moving away from what we know can lead to the development of unhealthy habits, and the change in routine can only make things worse. 

According to a study by BioMed Central, 61 percent of participating students gained weight during freshman year

The overall pooled mean weight gain, however, was seven and a half pounds.

Wade Taylor, a personal fitness trainer at SNAP Fitness in Brookings, said this weight can come from the abrupt switch from an active and organized lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle.

“A lot of students coming to college do not know what ‘healthy food’ is,” Taylor said. “Mom is the one who would cook food for students at home, and now it is the student’s responsibility to find healthy food choices.”

Unhealthy physical habits can often lead to unhealthy mental and emotional habits. Wellness Center counselor Michelle Novak said this is a common problem.

“Each counselor encounters about six students per day, and with four counselors on staff, we see anywhere from 100 appointments to 125 appointments a week for people who do not feel secure in their mental health,” Novak said.

The majority of students they see every week have some problem with anxiety or depression due to their new student environment, Novak said.

“We know that every college student has their own crazy schedule, so it does not surprise us at all that many students come in with this same issue,” she said.

The problem with many students in this situation is they don’t know what the first step is to make a change in their unhealthy habits.

Taylor said the first step in achieving any healthy habits is to ask questions and know what you can do to make the change.

“Go to the gym and ask the Wellness Center about what options there are to begin living a healthy lifestyle,” Taylor said. “They have many resources on campus that will allow you to develop a basic knowledge of what you need to do to begin healthy habits.”

Physical wellness has a lot of complicated and difficult steps, so Chase Ditmanson, a senior community and public health major, advises those who are just beginning to start small.

“The best way to stay physically active is to do something. Everyone’s interests and body type is different, so whatever you do to stay active and eat healthy, no matter how small, should be something that is maintainable and is something that you enjoy,” Ditmanson said.

Taylor said there are many people on and off campus who are there to help people achieve their goals.

“The job that we physical trainers have is education of what a good fitness routine looks like to help accomplish the goals set out by our clients,” Taylor said. “Everyone has a different goal in mind, and we want to be able to craft a workout and lifestyle that fits them and will work for them in the long run.”

Novak said there is a lot that one can do outside of counseling to improve long-term mental health, including getting enough sleep, having good hygiene, staying social, eating healthy and exercising.

Taylor also said mental wellness can be more easily achieved with someone helping along the way.

“Find a friend who shares similar fitness goals that would be able to workout with you and share in your healthy eating habits,” Taylor said. “Greater success in fitness is found with someone with you every step of the way and can lead to a more enjoyable experience.”

Ditmanson said he also finds emotional wellness important, and practices staying emotionally healthy by talking about his problems.

“Bottling up negativity can easily attribute to losing the drive that you need to stay healthy,” Ditmanson said.

Lifelong wellness is Taylor’s primary mission, and he said practicing those healthy habits in college will help them continue in the long run.

Ditmanson said his healthy habits were one of the main factors that helped him discover his identity in college.

“When I tell my kids to go to college, I want them to take away positive experiences that will shape their identity,” Ditmanson said. “Developing healthy habits in college have helped me maintain a positive outlook on life and set me up for my greatest success.”

Taking care of mental health in college is something Novak said will prepare a person for the real world.

“Gaining mental health during college can make you feel more secure when trying to find a job, looking for a relationship, and coping with future hardships of life,” Novak said.

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