An idiot’s guide to staying fit as a student

Student Life

A student’s life is rarely a healthy one. Between the terrible eating and drinking habits and snatched hours of sleep – often the products of a hectic social life – your body takes quite a beating. However, an Oxford student can expect to add to that stress and an even greater sleep deficit; courtesy of relentless essay deadlines, and perhaps the odd club or society you’ve somehow squeezed in.

So the question is – how do you stay fit and healthy in such a busy environment? You could do a sport; Oxford has an incredible array of both conventional and rather unconventional sports on offer.

Sports like Rugby, Football, Athletics, Cross Country, and Hockey are willing to train any and all abilities, as are less publicised ones like Boxing and Kickboxing, with no need to spar unless you want to. Any team sport is great for keeping in shape and being sociable at the same time.

But say college and university sports aren’t for you – or that they’re not quite taxing enough (*cough* GOLF *cough*), and you would like to push yourself. Or, your interests lie outside a physically competitive environment, but you’d like to keep in shape and live healthily.

Regardless, there are endless ways to stay fit, and eating healthily isn’t as hard as you think. An investment in a pair of trainers, a t-shirt and shorts will go a long way. I for one would thoroughly recommend simply jogging around Oxford; outside of the city centre there are some fantastic places to run in, such as University Parks. Christ Church Meadow provides a small oasis amidst the urban environment, as does South Park at the base of Headington Hill. Port Meadow on the edge of Jericho provides a larger arena for the more adventurous; head for somewhere green, and then explore – you’ll discover more of Oxford than anyone else.

Keen swimmers should head to the Rosenblatt Pool at Iffley. At £82 for unlimited use for a year, this can be a great investment if regularly used. Likewise, any lovers of the great indoors can use the gyms at Iffley for £102 a year (both free weights and cardio machines). However, check your college doesn’t have a gym first, as a lot of them do. Christ Church members can use MCS gym for free, and Somerville has its own one on site under the bar.

Be inventive with staying fit – try and target every major muscle group, or more simply, your legs, core, and upper body. Rowing and swimming are great for this, or mix up running with interval training, circuits, or weight training. Stimulating more muscles activates both the aerobic and anaerobic systems, elevating the heart rate and consequently increasing metabolic rate. Furthermore, more intense exercise causes endorphins to be released – chemicals akin to morphine, which make you feel good.

Exercise doesn’t have to dominate your life – 30 minutes of running or 20 minutes of circuits a day, or even every other day, will be highly beneficial for your health. The same goes for eating healthily. This doesn’t mean bin everything but salad, but be selective. Swap out refined grains for wholegrains – such as bread and pasta. Have brown rice instead, eat more green vegetables, and don’t eat sugars and fats to excess: the key is moderation. The same goes for alcohol; it is undoubtedly bad, but at the ages of 18-25, a considered amount won’t cause too much damage. Nothing permanent anyway.

So don’t be scared of living healthily. You’ll feel better, have more energy, and keep your doctor happy. And have fun with it – discover new foods, or new running routes. Staying healthy can be difficult; but when achieved, it makes everything else that much easier.

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