Student fitness – a pipe dream?

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The cliché of the stereotypical student is one that does not paint a very pretty picture. Living off beans on toast and noodles, the student in its natural habitat will aim to sleep in as late as possible, due to having consumed its own weight in alcohol the night before. The stereotypical student, in fact, does not take very good care of themself.

Image by Matti Matilla

This year, I plan to go on a health kick – taking vitamins, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, going to the gym as often as possible and quitting smoking. Why am I subjecting myself to such torture, you ask? For me, it’s not necessarily a question of losing weight (although that’s an added bonus). My issue is that I am so terribly, terribly weak and out of shape. I’m fed up of struggling with heavy doors and having my housemates open jars for me. I want to be able to run for a bus without feeling like I’m going to collapse, and carry my Asda delivery upstairs without my arms turning to jelly. In short, I want to be able to function like a normal human being and not some malnourished child, and most of all I want to feel good.

This is all very admirable, but somehow I think it will not be so easy to achieve in reality. There’s a reason this particular stereotype of students is thriving, and mainly that’s because a lot of it is true. When you’re budgeting on the pittance of your loan that’s left after your rent, it’s hard not to go for the cheaper option of noodles or other processed food. Fortunately, fruit and veg are relatively cheap, so as long as you have any basic cooking skills you should be ok. (Though apparently some students can’t even boil an egg, another damaging stereotype).

It’s also true that students do consume copious amounts of alcohol. Not only containing a large number of calories in itself (which you nonetheless might burn off again on the dance floor), this tends to lead to some late-night forays into dodgy fast food shops. When in my first year and on campus, the convenient location of Sultans as right on my doorstep led to my friends and I becoming regulars. Hopefully now that I’m back in halls for my final year I can resist the temptation.

But there are other demands of university life that make it difficult to get healthy. There is the already-mentioned issue of students typically being low on funds. While the price of gym membership is relatively cheap for what you’re getting (compared to cost of other newly built sports centers), it’s still pretty costly for a poor student. Already knowing I wanted to join, I saved up money from my part-time job over summer to purchase membership. However, those of you who feel they don’t have enough money to join, check out the Lifestyle section’s guide to getting fit on a budget.

For many, especially those in their final year, simply finding the time to exercise can be difficult. If you’re up to your eyeballs in coursework, along with taking part in any societies or other extra-curricular activities, you might think a workout is the last thing you can be bothered to do. But from my experience, exercising helps to get rid of stress, and leaves you feeling more prepared for busy days. So while I can’t give you an easy out, or some magical advice to combat all the problems students face in trying to be healthy, I can say this – if you chose to get fit, it might take some self-control and extra effort, but the benefits of feeling good in your own body are definitely worth it.

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