Fit-ting it in

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By David Waller, Contributor

Students worry about exams and tuition, but we also care about weight gain. Most college students will gain about three to 10 pounds, also called the “Freshman 15,” in their first two years of college, according to the kidshealth.org article, “Beating the Freshman 15.”

The most obvious remedy would be exercise, but between studies, jobs and, more importantly, your social life, who has time to run to the gym? Marcia Adler, director of Student Health Services at UNO, says students are usually signed up in high school for PE, or their social activities focus on sports or physical activity.

But by college, most students drop team sports from their social calendars. The shift in activities, academic requirements and number of hours at the office means that exercise is “one of the first things to go by the wayside,” Adler says.

So how do you find a way to fit everything into both your busy day and your jeans? A chat with Adler yielded these five tips for staying fit without breaking your schedule.

Take advantage of UNO’s facilities:

Adler says the Health, Physical Education and Recreation building on campus offers a wide variety of options for exercise, including “exercise equipment that you only see in hotels.” HPER offers Master Swim – competitive swimming based on swim speed – and such classes as yoga and Zumba – a dance/aerobics class with a fast rhythm.

Visiting HPER isn’t hard to fit into your schedule either, as the building is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., Adler says. You could squeeze in some time during your lunch hour or on a Saturday.

Weather too bad to be outside? HPER has an indoor track. Not a student athlete? HPER is meant for the average student, not just the elite.  And the best part is, it’s free.

Use physical recreation as a way of meeting people:

These group activities can be used to find other people with the same passions as you. Adler says we need to think about the way physical activity can be both a form of recreation and a way to meet people.

If, for example, you weren’t good enough to be on the volleyball team in high school you can come and play at HPER. You know you’ll have at least one common interest with anyone who’s playing with you, so use that as a starting point and make some new friends.

“We don’t have to be world class athletes, we just need to have a good time,” Adler says.

Park your car in an out of the way place and walk:

Adler recommends parking at PKI or at Crossroads and walking to class. She estimates that it should only take an extra 10 minutes and, in the meantime, you’ll avoid having to deal with both UNO parking and the price of a parking permit.

“We kind of have this expectation,” Adler says, “that we need to be able to park in front of the building and then go do exercise just like we do math class. So exercise becomes like a burden, like taking a class or going to work. Meanwhile if we just parked and walked to that math class we wouldn’t be looking for exercise because we built it into what we’re doing already.”

Make it fun:

Again, turning exercise into a regularly scheduled program can also turn it into an activity we have to do, rather than one we want to do. The best way to deal with this problem is to make exercise enjoyable.

“Mix it up, do lots of different things, do it with different people,” Adler says.

She recommends talking to the people you meet when walking across campus and asking them to join you. Before you know it you’ll have a group going.

When the weather is nice, ditch the track and go walk someplace new.

“The trails from Dodge Park to the airport or Fort Calhoun to Dodge Park have wonderful wildlife that you miss if you are not walking, running or biking,” Adler says.

Try taking advantage of today’s technology to change things up. Listen to music or an audio book while you’re on a run.

“If the book is scary you will jump when you meet another runner!” Adler says.

You can also try dressing for the occasion. Put on a jogging suit, or a sweatshirt and shorts (weather permitting).

“For folks just getting started they need to ‘fake it until they make it,'” Adler says. “Dressing like you know what you’re doing will help you feel more confident.”

Finally, try doing some of that studying in HPER. That way, you can take advantage of the facilities when you take a break- because you know you’ll need one.

Be active when you hang out with your friends:

Adler notes that we have no problem scheduling events around food, but we’re shyer about inviting our friends to go take a hike. Instead of going to Pizza Hut, go for a walk or go play a game like racquetball, tennis or soccer.

This will not only help you get in more exercise, and avoid those extra calories, but may also help improve your relationships. Adler says physical activity is a good strategy for communication; it creates a more relaxed environment for conversation.

“Activity is a communication style,” Adler says. It’s a good way to get to know people and build those life-long friendships. Such relationships are “built on activities, they’re not built around a pizza box.”

And the winner is… You!  Take these tips to heart, and you will reap all kinds of benefits. People who work out three times a week are healthier and happier than people who don’t exercise, according to “Beating the Freshman 15.”

Being active also increases brain activity and is good for dealing with problems like being tired, depressed or having muscle aches, Adler says. Let’s not forget the social bonuses either. Looking good, feeling good and building friendships. What’s not to love about staying fit?

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