Staying Healthy in College: Tips from a Microbiology Major
As a child, my mother would always say to me: “make sure you wash your hands”. At the time, I would often get irritated because I felt she was being weird or controlling. Now I’m in college and I am starting to understand the world of microbiology. I realize my mother just wanted to keep me healthy. Staying healthy in college contributes to overall student success. Here are a few of my tips for maintaining your good health this semester.
1. Hand-washing really does make a difference. I study microbiology which examines bacteria so small it can only be seen through a microscope. There are good bacteria and harmful bacteria. On campus many people are within a close proximity of one another, the perfect place for harmful bacteria to multiply. Students who come to school sick, not wanting to miss classes or an exam, subject everyone to their harmful bacteria. The best way to avoid getting sick at school is to wash your hands as often as possible with soap and water. When soap is unavailable use hand sanitizer. While people who skip hand-washing do not have ill intentions, their actions can cause havoc on another person’s health.
2. Eat a balanced diet. As college students we often find ourselves choosing meals that are cheap and easy, which doesn’t always result in a healthy option. A well-balanced diet contains all the essential nutrients, including whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. It is now recommended that half of your plate contain low calorie but filling vegetables. The other half of the plate should be divided into two equal portions – one lean protein and one whole grain or starchy vegetable.
3. Exercising regularly helps facilitate a healthier you. If you do not currently exercise regularly it’s easy to begin with taking a brisk walk for ten minutes either before or after meals. Just simply move more if walking is not convenient. When you find yourself standing somewhere for a long period, swing your arms, or you can even rock yourself back and forth. Take the stairs whenever you can. Park farther away from the store front when going shopping. Taking the opportunity to add more movement in your day will promote heart health and help prevent sickness.
4. Pay attention to your social wellness, too. A commonly overlooked activity that helps your mental well being is engating in social activities with other people. Including friends or family in your daily routines will keep you motivated and improve your mood. Negative emotion can break down the body’s microbial barriers, lowering your resistance to getting sick. Research suggests that certain personal attributes, including maintaining a positive outlook, help some people manage diseases (Harvard School of Public Health). So even when I’m not happy I force a smile on my face and I begin to feel my mood lighten.
Next time you are sick, reflect to this article to see what you might do differently to create a healthier you. I have turned my health around and I attribute my good health to these best practices I developed for myself. I hope they can help you stay healthy too.
Harvard School of Public Health. “Harvard Public Health.” The Biology of Emotion–and What it May Teach Us about Helping People Live Longer (2011).