Starting college -- and dealing with the changes that come with it -- can be a time of major emotional shifts for many young people. All the excitement and stress can lead to poor diet and exercise choices, and the sedentary nature of spending time in lecture halls and dorm rooms does not help. To keep off the dreaded freshmen 15, you need a basic workout that will keep you in shape and energized for the semester.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, college students need a weekly minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. This type of exercise can keep your weight down and ward off illness and disease. Try spreading these out over three to five days each week with a variety of at-home activities, like jumping roping, stationary cycling or following along with a cardio DVD. As a beginner, start with moderate cardio activity and work up gradually in intensity. Spend about five minutes warming up and cooling down with light activity. You should also do stretches following your workout, stretching all your major muscle groups to ease any tension and relax them after cardio.
Building and toning muscle is also important for college students, who should strength train 20 to 30 minutes two or three days a week. Weight machines or a large selection of free weights may not be feasible for an at-home routine, so body-weight exercises or a couple of sets of dumbbells can be used. Try a routine that includes squats to work your legs and core. Do these by standing with your feet slightly farther than shoulder-width apart, dropping your hips and bending your knees so your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Upper-Body and Core Training
Dumbbell rows and biceps curls will work your arms. Do a row by sitting on a chair and holding one weight at your side. Bring the weight to chest height, bending your elbow toward your back. Curls are done by bringing the weight to chest height but keeping the elbow in the same place at your side. Try planks or side planks to work your core. Planks are done by maintaining a pushup position, supporting yourself with either your hands or your forearms. To do a side plank, rotate your body to the side so that your feet are stacked and raise your top arm to the ceiling.
Flexibility exercises are also important in keeping your muscles supple and strong and should be done after each workout to relieve tension and relax the muscles. You don’t need a lot of space to perform these exercises, so there should be no problem doing a flexibility routine in your dorm room. Aim for exercises that include major muscle groups, like the seat stretch. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out, your knees slightly bent and your hands on your shins. Stretch forward, bringing your chin toward your knees, hold for five to 10 seconds and repeat three to six times.
Add to your at-home workout by incorporating activity as much as possible into your day. Walk or ride a bike instead of driving and take the stairs instead of an elevator. Choose to eat at the dining hall that’s farther away, or go to the library that’s across campus rather than the one that’s closer. You can also consider joining a club or doing intramural sports if they’re offered at your college. Many colleges and universities also have gym or workout facilities on campus that you can use.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Shape: No-Running Cardio Workout You Can Do at Home
- American Council on Exercise: Strength Training 101
- American College of Sports Medicine: A Strength Training Program for Your Home
- Shape: The Only 5 Stretches You Need
- Nemours TeensHealth: Getting Exercise in College
- OrthoInfo: Flexibility Exercises for Young Athletes