Health

Here’s How To Actually Get Fit When You’re A College Student

When carrying around thousands of dollars worth of textbooks isn’t enough.

College is the land of all-nighters, endless studying, and some of the best parties of your life — which is why it may seem impossible to find time to exercise.

So we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community and fitness experts for tips on how to start working out and stick with it when you’re pressed for time and money in college.

Hsinjuhsu / Getty Images / Via thinkstockphotos.com

Keep in mind that everyone’s fitness needs and abilities will vary, so this is by no means a complete fitness guide for every student. If you are concerned about your fitness goals, body image, or relationship with exercise, we suggest checking in with a doctor or psychologist to address your individual needs and health. OK let’s get into it:

1. Before you start, come up with some realistic and healthy fitness goals.

Do you want to lose weight? Build muscle? Finally be able to run more than one mile? “Go into it knowing what exactly you want to get out of working out, and why,” Erica Giovinazzo, registered dietitian and CrossFit coach in New York City, tells BuzzFeed Life. That way, she says, you’re more likely to stick with it and not get frustrated or give up.

It’s also important to make sure your fitness or weight loss goals are healthy. “College is a very vulnerable time, especially for young women, to get caught up in this group mindset of being very critical of their bodies,” Jessi Kneeland, certified personal trainer and fitness expert in New York City, tells BuzzFeed Life.

2. View working out as a positive addition to your life, not something that’s going to suck up all your free time.

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If you think of it as something that’s taking away from the time you could spend studying or socializing, you’ll always find a reason not to do it, says Kneeland. Instead, think of it as an exciting, fun, recharging thing that makes you happy and productive and awesome. Because it can be.

3. Start with short workouts a few times a week. This is college — you have enough on your plate as it is.

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According to the experts, the minimum amount of exercise you should aim for is 15 to 30 minutes, three days a week. One-hour workouts four to five days a week is ideal for lots of people, Kneeland says, — but that will vary depending on the person and their activity level — so feel free to start small so you don’t burn out.

4. Schedule your workout like a class… but don’t stress out about it like a class.

“I have a specific time every day that is my designated workout time. I treat it as if it’s one of my classes (which makes it easier to stick to actually going to the gym) and I make sure that it fits in with my school schedule efficiently.”

—Rosie McWilliams, Facebook

5. Even doing 10 or 15 minutes of a super-intense workout, like sprints on the treadmill, is a great place to start.

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The less time you have to workout, the higher intensity workout you should do, Giovinazzo says, “which means really working your body hard, getting sweaty, and out of breath.” Here’s an example of a quick cardio workout and a quick (but challenging) bodyweight workout.

“The gym at school is waaay too busy, so we just do about 15 minutes of exercise (usually bodyweight exercises, sometimes running) 4-5 days a week.”

—Sara Fawcett Ribble, Facebook

6. If a gym fee is included in your tuition, think of working out as not wasting your money.

Flickr User: Penn State / CC / Via Flickr: pennstatelive

“Take advantage of it,” Giovinazzo says. Not only is it an unlimited gym membership, but colleges will have some of the biggest and best gyms that you’ll get to work out in without seeing a cringeworthy monthly bill.

7. Take a physical education class for credit and get an easy A+ for your workout.

“Take one credit fitness classes. Basically guaranteed A+ to raise your GPA and you’re required to stay at least a little bit in shape.”

—Skye Croom, Facebook

8. Or try an intramural or club sport you’re really excited about.

“I joined the women’s ultimate frisbee team. I made some incredible friends, which makes working out just an opportunity to catch up with friends and play a sport that I love, so the time commitment isn’t an issue.”

—Maya Joye, Facebook

9. Do your class readings when you aren’t going as hard on the treadmill or stationary bike.

“Work out and study at the same time. You gotta read a book for class? Get the audio book and listen to it when you work out.”

—Samantha Michelle Myers, Facebook

10. Master lots of bodyweight exercises if you haven’t already.

Photos by Lauren Zaser for BuzzFeed. Design by Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed. / Via buzzfeed.com

Bodyweight moves use your own weight for resistance — so there’s no equipment needed. Check out our roundup of bodyweight movements for more technique and instructions.

11. Keep a yoga mat in your room.

“I leave a yoga mat on my floor and whenever I find myself just watching Netflix or a movie I do some jumping jacks, crunches, planks, squats, etc. Even if I only get 20 minutes every few days, it definitely helps and the yoga mat is a constant reminder.”

aurorarp

12. Or get a jump rope.

Jump roping is an easy way to get a cardio workout in basically anywhere, says Giovinazzo. Especially convenient if your campus gets frigid AF in the winter.

Try this nifty and totally affordable rope that counts your jumps for you. ($8.29)

13. Invest in a kettlebell or set of dumbbells so you can always lift at home.

Lauren Zaser / Jenny Chang / Via buzzfeed.com

It’s super important to make sure you have proper form before you start doing a lifting routine, so try to get a quick consult with a personal trainer at your campus gym if that’s available. Here are more helpful charts if you aren’t sure how to start.

And here are some kettlebell and dumbbell options that aren’t too hard on the wallet.

14. Or get ~creative~ with your own DIY weights.

Giovinazzo suggests using larger water bottles, gallon jugs filled with sand or water, wine bottles, whatever.

15. Use the stairs in your dorm or around campus for a good workout.

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Stockbyte / Getty Images / Via thinkstockphotos.com

 

Running up a flight of stairs is a super easy and effective cardio workout, and even toe taps on the bottom step can really work your legs, Giovinazzo says. Just don’t do it during the between-class rush or you might get trampled/annoy a lot of people.

16. Take mini-workout study breaks to help boost energy and focus.

“As an English minor I had to write a lot of papers, so every hour I worked on a paper, I would take a 10 minute break and do some sort of workout. It may not sound like a lot, but when you spend eight to nine hours writing a paper, it really adds up.”

—Molly Stroup English, Facebook

17. Or take dance breaks.

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“When my roommate and I get tired we put on a pump-up song and take a dance break. It’s a great way to clear your head, get your heart pumping and have some fun. Plus you’re more productive afterwards.”

—Jill Aneri Shah, Facebook

18. Use fitness apps if you have no idea what to actually do when you’re working out.

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“I have a few fitness apps on my phone that let me pick what kind of workout I want and how long I want to work out, and I’ll just throw my yoga mat down and workout.”

somerh

Check out our list of free apps that are maybe even better than a gym membership.

19. Or follow along with an instructional video on YouTube.

Fitness Blender / Via youtube.com

“I swear by YouTube fitness routines like Blogilates — minimal/no equipment needed, easy to do in my dorm/apartment, plus they’re usually quick (but intense) and you can pick and choose what’s right for you!

maraikal

Check out Fitness Blender, pictured above, or any of these amazing YouTube channels to get you started.

20. Instead of skipping a workout when you’re low on time, just do a super-short one.

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“If I can’t make it to the gym I do quick no-weight exercises once an hour while studying (like jumping jacks, push-ups, jump squats, etc.) for about three minutes.”

—Kaia Rosen, Facebook

21. Just make sure to keep challenging yourself with your workouts.

Me trying to finish this semester

— College Student (@ColIegeStudent)

It’s great if your workout becomes easier, because that means you are building strength and endurance, but keeping it challenging is how you make progress. “Always try to run a little faster or longer than usual, or do a few more reps of bodyweight exercises,” Kneeland says.

22. Find a buddy who will make you more accountable… and make workouts more fun.

“College is all about socializing right? I was never motivated enough to go alone, but then I found a friend with a similar schedule and we would go together. That’s what made it more fun and less like a chore!”

Caitlinserey

23. Try working out first thing in the morning so you can focus on class and friends the rest of the day.

Exercising in the morning helps boost your energy levels and productivity throughout the day, Giovinazzo says. Not to mention, it also ensures you get your workout in no matter what the day has in store for you. “Don’t let your class schedule dictate your workouts. Just get up and do it, and you’ll be set for the day.”

24. OR exercise right after you finish classes for the day — but before you settle in for naps and Netflix.

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Not only will this stop you from procrastinating and sitting around all night thinking about going to the gym, but a post-classes workout can help boost your energy and focus, says Kneeland, so you’ll actually be more productive during the nighttime study grind.

25. If you drive to school, park far away from campus some mornings to get a longer power walk in.

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“I park further away (parking is such a huge problem at my school) and I actually end up walking about 13 miles a week, just from being on campus and that extra 1/2 mile roundtrip walk to my car helps a lot.”

svschroe

26. Life hack: Only wash your hair on the days you workout.

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“I don’t shower unless I’ve gone to the gym that day, so I never skip more than one day. It’s a great motivator!”

karimarieb

27. Find out if your college offers any free or discounted fitness classes and take as many as you can.

“I took advantage of free workout classes on campus! I had a set schedule of classes I’d take during the semester and it definitely helped keep me on track!”

amandar4590fbab8

28. Or actually pay real dollars for a class you REALLY love, and then don’t skip it.

“I signed up for a martial arts class! I try my best to think of it as ‘me time’ rather than just a workout. Also, paying out of my own pocket for the classes keeps me motivated to go!”

—Alex Bourquein, Facebook

29. If you need some extra motivation, remember that exercising can make you energized, confident, and mentally sharp AF

“Working out obviously keeps you healthier, but it can actually sharpen your mind and help you focus better while studying, too,” Kneeland says. Plus, the boost of testosterone is great for your confidence and the lowered cortisol will help you de-stress, which is something all college students probably need.

Find more life-changing reasons to work out (like better sex) here.

30. But if it’s midterms or finals or just a ridiculously crazy week, give yourself a break. Just do what you can, when you can.

It’s completely fine (and understandable) to have times where you just cannot squeeze in a workout with your current schedule. It happens. When it does, just aim to be a little more active whenever you can be, says Kneeland. Maybe that’s power walking to class, biking to the grocery store, or just walking home from work instead of taking the bus. Those little things can help you from feeling like a total beginner again when you do get back to your usual workout.

31. And then go the fuck to sleep. Your body needs it.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll be just as useless in your workouts as you are in lecture. Adults should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If those numbers sound hilarious to you, it might be time to reassess your schedule to see if you need to cut back on long workouts, credits, or bingewatching to make sure you’re taking care of you.

32. Remember: Be kind to yourself and love your body.

Yes, exercise is important — but realistically, this is college. Every day can seem hard and exhausting, and working out can be too, so give yourself a break now and then. And make sure you aren’t being too hard on yourself in your workout, schoolwork, relationships, life, etc. It’s easy to compare yourself with everyone around you, but remember what makes you awesome.

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