Strategies to Incorporate Physical Activity as a College Student

By Elizabeth Oliver, UCDavis Student Health Center

Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control recommends that individuals engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous- intensity aerobic exercise in addition to two days of muscle- strengthening exercises every week? That comes out to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. You can also break up the 30-minute session into three 10-minute bouts throughout the day and still experience the same health benefits! Pretty cool, right? Staying physically active as a college student can be hard, but we have some strategies and tips to help you stay active now and down the road.

1. Schedule it!

As students we schedule our classes, work, internship, time to study, and social activities, so why not schedule our physical activity as well? If you schedule time to be physically active, it will simply become part of your routine. You can use a planner, a digital calendar or set reminders on your phone. Do what works best for you! It’s fun to plan your activity ahead of time and look forward to moving your body—you are committing to making your health and wellness a priority.

2. Be social!

Physical activity can be more fun with a friend! Ask a friend to hold you accountable and encourage each other throughout the workout. If you know someone else is doing the activity with you, you are more likely to show up and give it your all. Running with a friend can be a social time to catch up while fitting in your daily physical activity. Get friends together on a weekend afternoon to play softball, soccer, or Ultimate Frisbee. Schedule a coffee date with a friend, take it to go and walk together!

Group exercise classes are a great way to get active with friends.

3. Do it anywhere!

Think outside the gym. Physical activity can be done anywhere! Students can easily workout at home or outside with body weight exercises. If you want to use weights but don’t have any, try using things like backpacks filled with textbooks, jugs of water and other heavy items to strengthen your muscles! Simple, short circuits are a great way to get in your 30 minutes without leaving the house, especially if time is an issue. Try these full-body circuits below the next time you’re in a time crunch!

Circuit 1(repeat 2-3 times)

  • 10 jump squats
  • 10 push-ups
  • 24 walking lunges
  • 1 minute plank
  • 10 jump squats
  • 15 tricep dips (use a chair, coffee table or bench)

Circuit 2(repeat 2-3 times)

  • 20 bicycle crunches (10 on each side)
  • 10 step-ups on a chair or bench
  • 10 bicep curls with your backpack (fill it with books!) or a jug of liquid
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 10 scissor lunges
  • 20 sit-ups

4. Do what you enjoy!

Physical activity should be fun and enjoyable. You are more likely to stay physically active throughout your lifespan if you enjoy what you do to stay active. If you aren’t a fan of spinning, then don’t force yourself to go to a spin class. There are so many other options! Ask yourself a simple question, “What type of activity would I enjoy doing and look forward to?” Remember to focus on how physical activity makes you feel and what works best for you.

5. Think differently!

If scheduling a time for physical activity doesn’t work for you, then think of ways you can stay active all day long. Can you walk between classes or bike to campus? If you take the bus, can you get off one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way? If you are cooking dinner and waiting for your veggies to steam, can you do some exercises in the kitchen? Simply ask yourself, what can I do to move more throughout the day? It’s the little things we do on a consistent basis that matter.

6. Chill out!

Reserve time to spend by yourself and use it as scheduled “me time.” We all need daily time to relax and regroup. Although this may not seem like a good use of time given all the obligations we have as students, recovery is just as important as staying active. Even taking 10 minutes to focus on a mindful breathing technique can slow your heart rate, reduce your blood pressure and relieve stress.

An evening or morning yoga class is an excellent way to de-stress while also practicing mindful body awareness. Yoga allows you to increase your flexibility and is a great way to recover from more vigorous activity to help prevent injuries.

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