College Fitness: 5 Tips For Staying In Shape

Many college freshmen are flocking to campuses this month, in cars packed with dorm accessories–and perhaps tearful parents. After students say goodbye to their families and hello to their new roommates, the enormous lifestyle changes of college life will start setting in: Tougher classes. All-nighters. Shared rooms. Parties. Because of these newfound freedoms, distractions, and a slowing metabolism, it’s common for students to become unhealthy and perhaps gain weight. Some may know it as the dreaded Freshman 15, others as the Freshman 25.

“In high school, [students] may have played sports or taken P.E. classes, so they had activity built into their lives,” says Dixie Stanforth, fitness expert and lecturer in the University of Texas–Austin’s kinesiology and health education department. Now, she says, students have many more decisions that they’re allowed to make on their own. “Nobody’s telling them to study; Nobody’s telling them to exercise and eat right,” notes Stanforth. “[Before college], they didn’t get to choose Wendy’s for lunch.”

[See Why We’re So Fat: What’s Behind the Latest Obesity Rates[1].]

By exercising regularly and eating healthfully, both freshmen and older college students can stay fit. Here are some tips:

Make a plan.

Stanforth suggests students map out a specific fitness schedule at the beginning of the semester. “If all I do is think, ‘Oh, I really should exercise,’ [then] I’m not going to exercise,” she says. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Students should examine their fall semester course load and determine exactly how and when they will make time for exercise. Will they bring their swim suit to that noon history class and head to the aquatic center afterward? Will they bike to and from the dining halls? Will they hit the elliptical after filing stories for the student newspaper? The trick is to be realistic, says Silvia Baage, a group fitness instructor and Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland. “If you have an 8 a.m. class every day, you’re probably not going to work out at 6 a.m.”

Join a club (or make your own).

When students find friends who also want to exercise regularly, those friends will likely hold them to it, says Stanforth.”Doing some type of team activity or intramural sport–or something in which other people are counting on you–that’s very powerful,” she adds.

Often, dorm lobbies and recreation center bulletin boards include flyers for like-minded exercisers who want to create cycling clubs, swim teams, rock-climbing crews, or just about anything else, says John Katsares, personal training coordinator at the Ohio State University. Students should look for these flyers, and if they don’t see anything of interest, make their own club.

Joining a fitness club can also help students make friends, says Megan Alexander, a graduate assistant who works with Katsares in Ohio State’s department of recreational sports. “Coming into college as a freshman, you’re sort of looking for that place to belong,” she says. “So having that group can help you feel a lot more supported.”

[See U.S. News’s Eat + Run blog[2], which serves up fresh diet and fitness advice daily.]

Sign up for an intramural sport.

Andrew Dubs, an assistant track and field coach at the University of North Carolina, trains and conditions varsity athletes. But for students who want to go a different route, Dubs suggests signing up for an intramural sport.

Intramurals are a great way to bond with classmates and try different sports, such flag football, dodgeball, and disc golf. Plus, he says, with a league-organized game schedule, students can more easily plan their workouts. “With intramurals, that’s an hour [of exercise] at night maybe once or twice a week,” he says. “Then two or three other times a week, you can do something on your own.

Embrace the dorm workout.

Ideally, says Baage, students should get out of their living quarters to exercise–be it in the gym, on a bike path, in a pool, or wherever. But with bad weather and crammed study schedules, that’s not always an option.

For working out in a small space, such as a dorm room, Baage suggests using a resistance band. (They’re sold at Target, Walmart, and most major retailers.) With a resistance band, which is ultimately an oversized rubber band that sometimes has handles, “you can do squats, lunges, bicep extensions, bicep curls–you can do everything,” she says.

A stability ball–a large, inflatable, rubber ball–can also help students work their abs and other muscles, as sitting on the round surface requires balance.”You could be sitting in front of your computer, and by sitting on the ball instead of the chair,” she says, “you’re working on your core at the same time.”

Walk the campus.

“Students should try to walk as much of their campus as they can,” says Stanforth. Whenever possible, she suggests forgoing the ride to class or cross-campus bus service, and walking to classes instead.

[See Nutrition Tips for College Students[3].]

Another simple, everyday fitness tip from Stanford: Take the stairs in classroom buildings instead of the elevator. “Build those routine levels of activity,” she says, “All those calories add up.”


  1. ^ Why We’re So Fat: What’s Behind the Latest Obesity Rates (health.usnews.com)
  2. ^ Eat + Run blog (health.usnews.com)
  3. ^ Nutrition Tips for College Students (www.usnews.com)

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  1. Reply

    Fitness Tips To Prepare To Join The Army? I want to join the army, and I would like some fitness tips so I can whip my butt into shape. I’m almost 16 right now, and I’m not really in shape. Any advice from people who have any kind of military experience would be great, or if you just know some tips. Thanks!

      • HealthNut
      • August 28, 2012

      Hey man,

      You will need to build mental toughness more than anything, but you will learn that once you join.

      you should start out by doing 200-300 push-ups, 200-300 sit-ups, and 50-100 pull-ups everyday. It does not have to be all at once.

      You will need to get your general fitness levels up. The best way to do that is by doing this

      Jumping jacks-30 seconds
      shuffle splits- 30 seconds
      mountain climbers- 30 seconds
      burpess 30 seconds.

      repeat that 3-4 times. Before joining the army you should be doing that for 30 minutes a day.

      That should help you get started. If you have anymore questions, please ask.

      Good luck.

      Danny lupiani

  2. Reply

    Fitness Tips? I just turned 14, and weight around 90 punds. I have no muscle at all, basically. How should I get more fit? I bike ride alot during the Summer.

    And does anyone know hoew to get taller faster? I get made fun of because I am,like, 5′ 2″ tall.

    Im a vegetarian.

      • HealthNut
      • August 28, 2012

      Do you know about protiens, carbs, and fats, metabolism, etc.?
      when you say you’re a vegatarian, you’re basically saying you dont know much about nutrition.
      go to fitday.com and learn more about food before you cut out an entire food group. start eating meat and strength train and within the next year or so (when puberty hormones kick in) you will be as muscular as you want!
      -Jamie 😀

  3. Reply

    Anyone Know Some Good Fitness Tips? I’m really bad at running, and I would like to loose a few pounds, so I was wondering if anyone could give me some simple fitness tips? Just a simple fitness regime, please.

      • HealthNut
      • August 28, 2012

      Avoid elevators and escalators,,
      climb stairs,, walk long distances every single day.
      hour of cardio at your target heart rate every day.
      stretch properly afterwards or you wont want to come back tomorrow which blows the whole plan.

      good luck

  4. Reply

    I Want To Lose A Few Kilos But Not A Heap, Dieting And Fitness Tips..? I weigh 58 kilos, and I don’t really want to lose too much weight, maybe 5 or 6 kilos, but I mostly just want to tone up. Do you know any dieting/fitness tips? I’m going to the gym 5 times a week, and on the days I’m not there I’m going for a run. Any tips on what to spend my time on at the gym? Thank you x

      • HealthNut
      • August 28, 2012

      Dear Isy,

      One thing you need to understand is that you have to work hard if you want to change the shape of your body. That means a balance of medium-high intensity cardio exercise along with challenging strength training workouts.

      For weight loss, you’ll need to get about 5 cardio workouts each week at a medium-high intensity for at least 30 minutes. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start slow and work your way up but, if you’re in good condition and have no restrictions, challenging yourself with harder workouts is the best way to burn more calories. Interval training is a good choice because studies show you continue to burn calories even after you’ve stopped exercising.

      In addition to your cardio workouts, you’ll need to lift weights for all your muscle groups at least 2 non-consecutive days a week. And, by lifting weights, that means using enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps. For example, if you’re doing 12 bicep curls, you need to use enough weight that you can only do 12 bicep curls and not one more. Most people don’t lift enough weight to really challenge their muscles.

      What you need to engage in is a well balanced all rounded diet with considerable physical exertion over a prolonged time period. Food can be broken down into 5 major groups. These groups are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals and water. The body needs varying amounts of these types of food so that the adequate amount of nutrients is supplied to the body. A well-balanced diet does not mean an equal amount of each type of food, as our body requires more of some nutrients than others.

      Each type of food plays a significant role in our body but excesses or deficiencies of certain types of food can also harm the body and produce a negative impact on our health.

      It is very important that we know how much of each type of food we are supposed to consume and that we eat in a sensible way. This means eating regular meals at “least” three times a day and drinking plenty of water, but what I would suggest is breaking it down to 5 smaller meals a day and having your last solid meal before 6pm after that you are only allowed to have pure low fat milk a mug or two would be a good idea to cut down on excessive cravings.

      Hope this answers your question.

  5. Reply

    What Are Some Good Fitness Tips To Do In Your House ? Please anything helps !! its cold outside and i hate running what are fitness routines i can do to loose weight but indoors?

      • HealthNut
      • August 28, 2012

      You can do workout DVDs, Wii fit, DDR, you can also get trainers to turn your road bike into a stationary bike. Dancing is good too.

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