How I Stay Healthy in College

Jake Newby

| 5 min read

Staying healthy in college can be as challenging as a midterm exam. Between jam-packed schedules and the constant on-the-go, most college students struggle to stick to a rigid workout schedule and healthy diet, just like everyone does. A lot of them don’t have money flowing out of their pockets either, so fast food is often an easy, convenient fallback option.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s corporate communications interns from the summer of 2023 shared talked about how they stay healthy in college during a recent interview. These five students talked about their diets, exercise regimens and self-care routines:
  • Caitlyn Begosa: Sophomore, Syracuse University
  • Maria Cassel: Senior, Butler University
  • Olivia Durkee: Senior, University of Michigan
  • Mike Merucci: Senior, Michigan State University
  • Jenna Natwick: Senior, Michigan State University
Let’s start with exercise. Two-part question: how tough is it to stay consistent amid all the craziness of your schedule, and what does your workout regimen look like?
Cassel: “I pretty much try and do something almost every day. It’s a mix of things, obviously I have a free membership through school, which is really awesome. And when my schedule gets super busy, I make it non-negotiable for myself and try and wake up as early as I can. Last year I woke up at like 6 a.m. to go to the gym. It helps. I had a friend that I went with every day. Going with friends is always helpful. Then when it’s nice I do try and run outside. And another thing I do is I’ll try to use workout classes on the weekend as social activities. So, a lot of the girls in my sorority will all go to this palates place right by campus.”
Natwick: “I try to walk to classes as much as possible. MSU has a really beautiful campus, so it’s nice to be able to walk in the warmer seasons. Last year I got involved with a club. I was doing the dance club at MSU and that was something I did to try and stay active. So, getting involved in clubs is a great way to stay active while engaging with the community at school.”
Begosa: “Like Jenna does, I walk. And I use a fitness app on my phone to track calories and stuff on my phone. I set goals on my app.”
It’s not always convenient or inexpensive, but what do you do to try and balance out your diet while at school? How do you sneak healthy meals or foods into your diet?
Natwick: “For me I try to make sure I get a fruit or vegetable in every single meal. At least one serving in every meal so that I know that I’m keeping some of those nutrients coming in.”
Durkee: “I do a lot of cooking at home. I don’t really eat at the dining hall or anything like that, because I just feel like it’s easier for me to control my diet that way. I have stomach issues, too, so it’s hard for me to go to the dining hall because I don’t always know which ingredients certain foods have. The air fryers are my everything because they cook really fast. So, I’ll do some salmon and some rice, maybe a vegetable. I do a lot of chicken in the air fryer. Chicken and salmon are probably my two biggest go-to proteins. They’re the easiest. I always say that I feel about my air fryer how my grandma felt about the microwave.”
Merucci: “I pack a lunchbox pretty much everyday because I know I’m going to eat something bad every day. I work right by a Taco Bell and every day somebody does a run and they’re like, “do you want anything?” and I get something. So, I put something in my lunch box to try and balance out what I know I’m going to end up eating later in the day.”
Begosa: “I do like tofu and vegetables. I’ll take vegetables from my dining hall, sauté them with soy sauce and pepper, and I’ll cube up some tofu and use teriyaki sauce with it.”
Cassel: “We just got a Sweetgreen (restaurant) on campus so that’s one of my go-tos, I get salads there all the time. For being a salad place it’s actually not too expensive, so for my budget it works well. I try to get it once a week, otherwise I eat food at the house or at the dining hall.”
Taking time to nurture your mental health complements diet and exercise to make for a healthy, well-rounded profile. Do you take any self-care measures during the day or week to try and balance out all the chaos that is a college semester on campus?
Cassel: “I don’t have any big, regimented thing, but I try to give myself at least 30 minutes a day of alone time where I’m not doing any schoolwork or socializing with people. Those things are important and they make life in college stressful but also really fun. But, I think it’s really important to prioritize setting a little bit of time aside for yourself."
Merucci: “I have a specific playlist that I’ll listen to most of the time. I’ll close my bedroom door and be like, “yeah, I need to listen to that right now.” It’s an ambient playlist with four songs on it. I use it as kind of a stress management tool. When I listen to it, it helps me fall asleep. If not, my mind will get a bit crowded.”
Durkee: “I try to prioritize wind-down time at night. A lot of people I know try to hangout at night and do a lot of homework at night. Just for me, I need that time to decompress. I won’t be able to sleep well if I try to go immediately to bed without being able to relax and breathe and stuff. I’m trying to be better about having boundaries and being like, “no, it’s 9 o’clock, you guys need to go home.’”
Photos courtesy of Caitlyn Begosa, Maria Cassel, Olivia Durkee and Jenna Natwick

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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