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Creating a Culture of Healthy Living Among College Students

by on August 30, 2013

Christina Walsh
Residence Hall Director
Health in Higher Education Region II Rep
New York University

It is that time of year again when most of us are scrambling to prepare for the arrival of our students, or are just recovering from the fun and excitement of welcoming first-years and returners. No doubt we are putting in a lot of long days of preparation, training, and creating the tone our students will experience for this coming academic year.

As students arrive on campus, there is a frenzy of excitement, new connections, reunions with old friends, and lots of ideas about what the coming year will look like. No doubt they are looking forward to engaging in campus traditions, sporting events, and academic projects. But with so much to consider, plan, and think about, it is easy for students’ schedules to fill up and for personal time to become a lesser priority. Often, meals become grab n’ go less than healthy options for the sake of time and convenience, exercise habits fall by the wayside, time for reflection and rest is replaced with late nights of studying and socializing.

How can we counter the multiple pressures students experience that so easily turn their attention away from self-care and health? Collaborating with different departments including student health centers, public safety, campus clergy, wellness offices, dining services and athletics to provide programming and information to students about their general well being is essential. Additionally, Peer Mentors and Resident Assistants can be great resources for helping to establish a culture of health among students.

Having student staff program early and often in the academic year for health related activities such as yoga, running for the beginner/advanced student, nutrition dinners, meditation, and time management sends the message that self care and health is important and achievable for college students. Having peer leaders in each residential or commuter student community take the lead in connecting with students about healthy living could increase engagement and make participating in these kinds of programs appear to have a social as well as an emotional/physical benefit.

Being in Region II, we all experience cold long winters. Setting these habits in place early in the academic year, before the winter blues set in, could benefit many students by establishing healthy habits, understanding how to stay active, eat healthy, and maintain emotional well being throughout the academic year. Now is the time to set the tone of health and wellness for our students.

I wish you all the very best with your openings and welcome celebrations!

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