You’re eating pizza at 2 a.m. most nights of the week; you’re up late studying and out early to catch your 8 a.m. class. All of these mean one thing: your body is struggling to stay healthy and happy. Luckily, to get on the right track, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Thanks to the built-in community and free resources available to you at college, there are plenty of opportunities to stay healthy on the cheap.
Use these ideas to stay healthy, enjoy your time in school, and avoid spending any money at all.
Make One Healthy Food Choice a Day
Eating healthy at every meal in college is nearly impossible. Instead of struggling to make an unhealthy cafeteria work for you every time you sit down to eat, focus on just one meal. Breakfast is a good option because most cafeterias offer eggs, fruit, and toast, which makes for a well-rounded, healthy breakfast.
You can also buy inexpensive, healthy foods from the grocery store to keep in your room for healthy snacking. Look for foods like yogurt, fruit, whole grain crackers or deli meat, all of which are inexpensive and small enough to store in your dorm or mini fridge.
Join Intramural Sports Teams
If you played sports in high school but wanted to focus on your studies in college, this is the perfect option for you. Nearly every single college, including community colleges, provide equipment and space for sports teams to practice and play right on campus. Options usually include, but are not limited to, basketball, soccer, kickball, and volleyball.
If you’re not a big sports fan, but like the team atmosphere, look for sports like broom hockey, ultimate Frisbee, flag football, dodge ball or dance club, all of which will help you stay active all year long.
Take a Healthy Elective
Most schools offer electives that are not only fun and allow you to earn class credits but help you stay healthy and fit too. While electives differ from school to school, I remember being able to take boxing. I signed up with my friends and we had a blast working out together twice a week.
If your school has a rock climbing wall, for example, you may be able to take a rock climbing class. This sport, which was the second most popular indoor hobby of 2016, is perfect for year-round fitness. In the winter, you can climb inside, and in the summer you can head out to test your skills on boulders. You’ll build strength all over and feel awesome climbing all the way to the top.
If your school doesn’t offer these courses, ask your counselor about getting credit for classes at studios near campus, where you’ll likely get a student discount.
Walk, Bike, or Skate to Class
If you live on a big campus, the bus or shuttle can be tempting: the extra riding time gives you a chance to catch up on class reading, homework or Snapchat stories. The extra time sitting, however, is doing you no favors in terms of health and fitness.
Instead of taking the bus, settle for a long walk or bike ride—better yet, hop on your skateboard or roller blades. Use MapMyRun or a similar app to see how just how many calories you burned on your trip to motivate you to keep it up. Most of these apps track any activity and are often free, so you can use them on your runs or in the gym as well.
Aim to use an alternate form of transportation to class at least three days a week, allowing yourself a few days to kick back and Snap your “I don’t want to go to class” selfie.
Join the School Gym
The best part about college: free access to a gym—at least at most schools. Take advantage of this as much as possible by signing up and committing to at least two sessions a week. With a relatively flexible schedule, you can likely find time every single week for two 1-hour workouts.
Look for free fitness classes too, which are perfect for people who have a hard time staying productive in the gym.
The best part: college gym hours are always long, staying open until 10 or 11 p.m. There’s no better way to wind down from a jam-packed day than a run on the treadmill with your favorite Spotify playlist blasting in your headphones.
Drink More Water
This one is virtually free—after you buy a water bottle. Water helps reduce bloat, thanks to its ability to flush excess sodium from our bodies. It also helps curb unnecessary snacking because you feel more full throughout the day.
Get a bottle that will last you—I highly recommend Hydro Flask, which keeps cold water cold for up to 12 hours—and then make a habit of filling it up every day before you leave for class. Make note of water fountains and filling stations around campus so you can easily get more whenever you need it.
Staying healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, especially in college where opportunities and resources are readily available for little to no cost. Find time in your schedule for the gym, drink more water and lace up your shoes for a walk to class at least a few days a week.
This post was contributed to GradGuard by Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist, and the owner of her own personal training business, Honest Body Fitness. She’s using her experience from writing, editing and marketing to help people get healthy and learn to love what their bodies can do. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram for health articles, new workouts and more.