Fitness Guide For College Students

College campuses often have a variety of resources available to help students get and stay healthy.


Updated September 19, 2023

Fitness Guide For College Students is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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How to Workout in College

College students have a lot going against them when it comes to staying healthy. There's the stress of coursework and packed schedules. And there's that new-found independence, which can take some unhealthy forms — think all-you-can-eat meal plans and pulling all-nighters. Fortunately, colleges and universities are working hard to help their students get in shape and stay that way. This guide gives information and advice on achieving and maintaining good health and fitness throughout college – and beyond.

How Much Exercise Do College Students Need?

A balanced, healthy fitness routine for any adult includes two key elements: Cardio exercise and strength training. And for many, regular stretching is an essential part of their regime. Below are recommendations for how much exercise college students need.

Please note: You should always check with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine. These are general recommendations, but they don't take into account any health conditions or concerns you may have.

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How to Get in Shape on Campus

College campuses often have a variety of resources available to help students get and stay healthy. Before you splurge on a pricey gym membership, check out what your school has to offer. And if working out in a gym isn't your thing, there's an abundance of exercise routines you can do in the privacy of your dorm room.

On-Campus Resources to Use

Your campus likely features a package of services and facilities designed to make staying in shape as simple and fun as possible.

5 Tips for Creating Healthy Habits

Creating new habits can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. But here are a few tricks and tips that can help you be more successful on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Get on a schedule
    Most college students have good intentions. But it can be easy to forget about eating well and moving your body when balancing a packed schedule and busy social life. But including these essentials in your daily schedule can help you actually do them. Write a meal plan into each day and stick to it. Schedule small amounts of exercise throughout the day. Even 10 minutes in between each of your classes can add up.
  2. Keep water handy
    Staying hydrated is something lots of students don't think about, but it's important. Get in the habit of keeping a filled water bottle in your book bag at all times.
  3. Find a fitness buddy
    It's easier to stick to healthy habits when sharing them with someone else. Ask your roommate to join in or find a workout buddy at the gym. If someone is waiting for you, you'll be more likely to show up for a workout.
  4. Download a fitness app
    Smartphone apps like MyFitnessPalCouch to 5K (C25K) and ACTIVEx can make it easy to fit in some quick exercise and keep track of your fitness goals. Many also include active communities where you can find workout partners to help keep you accountable.
  5. Reward yourself
    Giving yourself a small (and healthy) reward when you reach health and fitness goals can help keep you motivated to keep going.

Student Discounts to Take Advantage of

Businesses love college students, and they show it by offering some pretty substantial discounts. Here are some to check out:

Expert Advice on Student Health

Jennifer Diprete

The Director of the Center for Student Well-Being at the University of South Florida

Makeba Reed-Johnson

Fitness Coordinator for Wellness at Spelman College offer advice on getting and staying fit while in college.

Q. What are students' biggest challenges for staying fit while away at college?

Reed-Johnson:The biggest challenge for students is trying to make their health a priority in the midst of a busy academic and social schedule. Many students want to be physically active and are excited about utilizing the gym when they first start college, but then student life happens. Students also come into college believing that stress and sleep deprivation are indicators of success.

DiPrete: Competing priorities tend to create the biggest challenge for college students when it comes to staying fit. Students tell us that between classes, studying, socializing and extra-curricular commitments they are overbooked. Sometimes they just don't have the time or motivation to either start a fitness routine or hit the re-start button on re-engaging in physical activity.

Q. How do you approach the issue of supporting health and fitness among your school's student population?

Reed-Johnson: We are a historically Black college for individuals who self-identify as women. Because we encourage activism and social justice engagement, we understand we have an obligation to teach our students the importance of self-care and self-preservation. We pride ourselves in launching programs and classes that promote body positivity, self-acceptance and inclusion. We want our students to visit the Wellness Center because they love themselves, not because they are trying to change something they dislike.

DiPrete: We approach our students' health and fitness from a comprehensive standpoint. We have a first-rate Campus Recreation Department that offers a multitude of ways students can stay active. Students can also meet with a success and wellness coach to set goals and strategize action steps to meet those goals. In addition, we offer a variety of presentations and workshops that support healthy routines and a balanced lifestyle approach.

Q. What programs/incentives do you have in place to encourage students to stay fit in terms of both diet and exercise?

Reed-Johnson: Twice a week we offer a class where students have the opportunity to meet with a personal trainer to create a personalized workout and get nutritional guidance to help them meet their goals. Our fitness attendants are available to walk students through all of the strength training equipment and teach them how to use them properly during Wellness Center hours. Our building also houses a teaching kitchen where we host healthy cooking demos that include dorm-friendly recipes and info sessions on how to navigate the campus cafeteria.

DiPrete: Technology is shaping the fitness industry. Campus Recreation uses a mobile application that is free to students to track their workouts. The application allows students to join challenges on various pieces of cardiovascular equipment and participate in group cycle classes. The challenges, competitions and group camaraderie encourages participation. There are often giveaways and prizes as incentives for exercising both inside and outside of the facility.

Q. What are your best pieces of advice for a student regarding maintaining his or her health while in college?

Reed-Johnson: We encourage students to utilize all the resources on campus for their total well-being such as Counseling Services, Yoga in the Museum and Student Health Services. When students learn to employ healthy habits and protocols in the midst of a rigorous academic schedule, they are more likely to adhere to some of these same habits once they graduate and enter the workforce.

DiPrete: We recommend that students develop a healthy routine that best matches the needs of their academic schedule and outside commitments. We ask students to take care of the basics, including keeping a regular sleep schedule. We encourage them to schedule their fitness activities just as they would a class, even if it's a 15-minute walk.  We encourage them to stay well hydrated, consume healthy meals and keep healthy snacks on hand in between classes.

More Health Resources

This site from the non-profit ACE includes access to a healthy living blog, healthy recipes, exercise library, plus fitness tools and calculators. One-stop source for college health and safety information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food and Drug Administration site with tips and information on a wide range of issues impacting college women's health. This health and fitness information site provides tools, calculators, recipes and tons of advice. From the Department of Health & Human Services, comprehensive information on being active and eating healthy.

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