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Staying healthy at university

university health coughingWhether it's all-night essays or drunken trips to A&E, university can be a health disaster. Keep feeling good with our uni health guide.

Healthy eating

Contrary to popular belief, being a student doesn’t transform your nutritional needs and let you live on baked beans and pizza. The basics are still the same: plenty of fresh fruit and veg, not too much fat and sugar.

But sometimes student life – and student budgets – can make this a struggle. Try these tips to help fill your nosebag:

  • Check out the local markets: You can often get fruit and veg much cheaper than at supermarkets
  • Think big: A giant pot of chilli, soup or stew is as quick to make as a small one and often cheaper per portion. Share with friends, or freeze portions so you can enjoy home cooking with the speed of a ready meal.
  • Fight temptation: Don’t shop while hungry, and have a filling meal before a night out to battle the call of the kebab shop.

For recipes that are good for you and your wallet, try these sites:

Exercise

Whether it’s a morning run or a uni sports team, regular exercise is vital. And it’s not just for those who want to keep trim: staying active can help to keep you mentally sharp, improve your sleep and lots more.

  • Buddy up: Whether it’s a football team, a tennis partner or just someone to go swimming with, you’re less likely to pick armchair sports over real ones if there’s someone there to badger you.
  • Get a routine: it’s getting started that takes the effort. Get used to going at the same time and before long you’ll be hitting the gym without thinking.
  • Ditch the bus: Walking or cycling to lectures might not involve lycra tops and the Rocky theme tune, but it’s still exercise.

Emotional health

Going to uni is a big change, and it can be difficult. Here are some key ways to keep your head above the water:

  • Plan your life: Academic problems and an empty bank account are a fast-track to stress, so build a budget, make a timetable and enjoy how organised you are.
  • Get some sleep: Sleeping well is vital to feeling good. Ideally, you should go to bed and get up at the same time every day – and that doesn’t mean staying up until 4am before every 9am lecture!
  • All of the above: Eating well and getting some exercise will help your emotional well-being – and vice versa.

Remember, if things are getting tough, there’s always someone you can talk to, whether it’s friends, a student union rep, a tutor or a confidential phoneline like Nightline.

Sexual health

There are things less sexy than gonorrhoea – but not many. A few simple steps can help to keep everything in working order.

  • Use protection: This is the big one. You’ve seen the adverts, you’ve heard it before, and that’s because it’s vital. Most student unions provide free condoms, so use them.
  • Get tested: STIs don’t always show symptoms, especially in men. Some, such as Chlamydia, can be tested using a home test kit.
  • Take control: there can be a lot of pressure around sex, whether from individuals or through peer pressure. Remember: it’s your body, and you decide what you do with it.

Students’ unions can be a great source of advice and support, and there’s plenty of confidential help available from the NHS.

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