If you’re like most college students, you’re probably trying to decide what to do with your life. By all means, take this time to experiment and figure out your future. But here’s some advice: seek a career and lifestyle you can balance around your health, not the other way around. You haven’t started the creaky process of “getting older” quite yet, but it’s coming.
When you’re in your 40s, no amount of suits in your closet or money in your bank account will seem more important than being free of chronic pain or other conditions. Risk factors and genetics determine a lot about your health, but there are better ways to play your hand than others. Adequate nutrition, exercise and sleep will do a great deal to minimize the chances that you’ll end up in poor health. In fact, they’ll keep your body feeling young and your mind feeling sharp.
You may have noticed that there’s a contingent of people who view athleticism and careful nutrition as intellectually hollow. A recent comic featuring a muscle-bound man with a tiny head and a skinny man with a massive cranium posed the question “Why work out at the gym when you can work out at the library?” It’s a clever cartoon, but it implies that you’ll have greater intellectual success if you leave exercise at the wayside.
That’s just not true. A recent review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that 45 to 60 minutes of aerobic and resistance training every day consistently increased cognitive function in adults over 50. It’s probably a safe bet that it improves cognitive function in those below 50 as well.
In addition to regular exercise, nutrition is important. If managing your diet and sticking to healthy food sounds dull and unappealing, consider that for thousands of years, people didn’t know what foods were best for their bodies. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of people have lived their entire lives with access to little more than gruel. A grilled chicken breast, brown rice and broccoli never sounded so good.
Choosing a simple diet you can prepare at home will not only be better for your health, it will save you money. Restaurants can be up to two or three times as expensive as a meal you cook for yourself. If you’re worried about how much time it takes, search the internet for “meal prep day.” Eventually, the urge to eat out all the time will subside and you’ll be able to appreciate restaurant meals more as luxuries than as necessities. When you do treat yourself to such a meal, you’ll be sure to take more time to savor the chef’s hard work!
The best part about a dedication to fitness is the effect it has on the way your body feels. You’ll look and feel great, but the real satisfaction will be the constant sense of good health in your everyday life. It feels like you’re wearing perfectly tailored clothing made out of only the highest-quality materials. Rest assured, you’ll feel great whether you wear a suit or a T-shirt to work.