College can be an exciting time as most students are starting adulthood, but it’s also a time where many start out on the wrong foot.  We’ve all heard of the “Freshman 15”, the weight gain that is common during freshman year, but it’s just one example of the beginning of bad habits that can affect wellness— and even your career path— into the future.

College life can be busy and stressful, and that can lead to poor health choices.  Schedules are full, leaving little time for physical activity, and eating options are not always the best.  Those two factors combined create the “Freshman 15,” but weight gain and other poor health choices can be avoided if you make health and wellness a major focus.  Utilizing the following four simple thoughts will help to improve your wellness while in college and beyond.

First off, move more.  Making an effort to include physical activity in your routine is paramount.  Many colleges have wellness centers or programs.  Seek them out!  Geared to college students, they are generally located on campus, and their hours of operations are designed to fit into the busy lifestyle of college students.  Regular exercise will also help increase your energy.  In the short term, increasing physical activity to increase energy seems counterintuitive, but, in the long term, it works.

Next, eat smart.  Make healthy choices at the dining hall, at vending machines, and while eating out.  Make sure to choose fresh fruit and veggies; the calcium and potassium they contain are good for energy.  It’s not to say that you can’t have candy, chips or dessert, just eat those in moderation.

Furthermore, put a greater emphasis on sleep.  How much sleep is enough, especially during college?  Most adults need around seven hours, but you may need more.  Not only will you feel better, but your mental focus will also improve.

Lastly, try to lighten up.  Stress is an inevitable part of life, and learning to manage it now is important for the future, too.  Successfully managing stress means keeping a positive outlook and a healthy lifestyle, which helps fight energy-sapping depression.

No student wants to gain excess weight at college, but many don’t realize that neglecting wellness during the college years could impact future career aspirations as well.  From inactivity and unhealthy eating to smoking and drinking, developing bad habits in college will only make it harder to break those habits once you graduate.  An example of this would be smoking.  Many companies now test for smoking and there are healthcare facilities throughout Polk County that will not hire or permit smoking on their campuses.  As a nurse who smokes, it means that your bad habit has seriously limited the number of places you may be employed in the future.

Another similar consideration is job descriptions.  When college graduates look for a career position, many times they merely look for the education requirements or the skills needed to do the job.  However, they overlook physical requirements, such as the ability to lift 50 pounds or the requirement to stand for hours at a time.  Many careers in the healthcare profession require physical assertion, so you are limiting your career options if you are not physically fit.  Graduates may be hired, but if you neglect to pay attention to all requirements, then you may encounter hurdles.  The inability to meet the physical demands could be reflected on performance evaluations or even result in termination.  All in all, college is the best time to establish healthy habits for a lifetime— and long career— of success and wellness.


story by RYAN REIS, Director of Student Services, Keiser University

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ryan Reis and Keiser University are vision partners with Building a Healthier Polk, an initiative of Polk Vision.  For more information on the Building a Healthier Polk Initiative, visit  You can also find them on Twitter at @HealthierPolk and on Facebook