Healthy Habits and the Lure of Laziness

I convinced myself that, after handing in my dissertation, I was going to dedicate myself to healthy eating and exercise; a month and a half, four difficult essays, and a cake-filled birthday later, and my new-found devotion to fruit and cardio still hasn’t materialised. Unsurprisingly. As someone who dislikes vegetables and whose approach to school P.E. was hovering inconspicuously in the corner, it was never going to be anything other than a struggle to finally force myself into a whole new healthy mentality.

It’s a difficulty that everyone has faced at one point (unless you happen to actually enjoy gruelling exercise and a chocolate-free existence, in which case I really, really envy you).The eternal question of dieting and work-outs is universal and immensely popular, having spawned a relentless industry of celebrity DVDs and super-foods, but it’s one that often appears irrelevant to students. Although subscribing to the stereotype that students are always a) drunk, b) poor and c) cramming Dominos and Supernoodles into their junk-filled mouths is incredibly reductive and just plain false, it’s true that prioritising exercise and healthy eating is difficult when you are juggling a million other commitments (uni, part-time job, internships, extra-curricular activities…) and often don’t have the money, or the motivation, to keep up healthy habits. After a long day stressing about references and formatting, there’s nothing I care about less than calories, and during the exam period, it’s difficult enough concentrating on endless piles of lecture notes, let alone refraining from an occasional biscuit or two. Add that to the significant cost of gyms – and the substantial increase in Glasgow University’s own gym prices – and the fact that my sole leisure time is usually at nights, and it becomes increasingly difficult to be quite as healthy as I’d like to be.

This is magnified by the fact that much university socialising – although by no means all – is focused around alcohol, an obviously unhealthy choice that piles up when, like me, you’re prone to eating your hungover feelings. And a lot of other students I’ve talked to feel the same: although an impressive number of fellow students make a consistent effort to attend the gym, regulate their eating habits and be adventurous with their food choices, for many of  us it’s an effort that usually falls by the wayside when compared with more pressing commitments. Third year student Jenny says that, despite her membership, she doesn’t have the time or effort to go to the gym often – when a semester is jam-packed into twelve busy weeks, who needs the additional stress and self-discipline that being healthy requires?

But it’s something that, as we approach exam season, I’ll definitely be taking into account: opting for fruit instead of crisps may very well boost that much-needed brainpower, and exercise, from cost-effective jogs and household workouts (as long as you don’t mind flatmates or family members walking in upon your sweaty moves), to GUSA and outside exercise classes, can definitely provide an energising, cleansing study break. It’s a difficult sacrifice to make but one that will definitely be rewarded: after all, there’s nothing better than feeling completely comfortable in your own skin.

[Rachel Walker]

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