Opinion: 4 quick health tips for college students

College is a juggling act. With demanding classes, piles of homework, work and one’s social life — it can all be a bit difficult to balance. However, if you are able to practice healthy habits, you’ll find the energy you need to keep your act going. This week, I interviewed Dr. Enrique Leon — a member of the Tacoma School Board who is both a physician and the team doctor for Lincoln and Stadium High schools. He was able to sit down with The Ledger and give four quick tips for fueling a healthy lifestyle!

Get plenty of exercise

Dr. Leon explained that while exercising, students should aim for “at least 150 minutes per week, with 20 minutes minimum of aerobic activity.” Surprised? Don’t worry! According to the American Heart Health Association, only one in five adults get enough exercise to maintain heart health. If you aren’t getting enough exercise, it isn’t too late to start. Begin slowly by going for a walk or riding a lime bike. Then you can build your way up to running or hitting the weights at the University Y. By exercising 150 minutes per week, students will not only maintain a healthy weight, but can also improve their sleep, perform better on tests and even increase their lifespan.

Think twice before vaping

Dr. Leon also shared a report from the Pierce County Health Department, which found that while cigarette smoking has declined, vaping has increased 77 percent within the last three years. Vaping is the act of inhaling vapor from a liquid that is heated up in a device. An article from Yale Medicine found most vape liquids contain “propylene glycol, [which is] also called glycerin — as a base, nicotine, marijuana, or flavoring chemicals to produce common or outlandish flavors.” Vaping is often called the “healthier” alternative to traditional smoking because it contains fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes. However, vape pens or e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, which is incredibly addictive. An article from John Hopkins Medicine found that nicotine can cause smoke cravings, which may give people systems of withdrawal if ignored. The Yale Medicine health researchers came to the consensus that “vape devices have not been proven to help adult smokers quit smoking,” and that “vaping increases the risk a teen will smoke regular cigarettes later.” So, save yourself the risk of poor health and avoid vaping.

Practice Mindfulness

I was introduced to mindfulness by a professor a few quarters back, and it has been an immense help for helping me to relieve stress. Mindfulness — in its most simple definition — is the state of being aware or conscious of something. When we are mindful, we pay attention to our place or task at hand, but we don’t allow it to overwhelm us or stress us out. Dr. Leon explained that there are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as meditation, yoga or reading about topics that relax you. Personally, I like to practice mindfulness by meditating. Making sure to take deep breaths, I place all of my worries or anxieties about a task on a cloud and use the moment to fixate on relaxing. Once my meditation is over, I find I’m re-energized for the tasks at hand. Don’t be afraid to find the method that works for you.

Eat Healthy

Food is an essential part of our daily lives, as the nutrients we receive from food help us to breathe, think and grow. But we should be mindful about the foods we fuel our bodies with. Fast food may make us feel full temporarily, but too much of it can make us feel sluggish. Other health problems that come with a diet high in calories, fat and sodium include “heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity,” Dr. Leon said. It is important that students fuel their bodies with healthy foods. Instead of making a Mcdonalds run — try preparing a home cooked meal. Not only will you be able to see what is going into your food, but you will also improve your culinary skills. Be sure to drink 7-8 glasses of water. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your day by making them into healthy mini snacks. Trust me, your body and your mind will feel so much better for it.

For more health tips, you can follow Dr. Enrique Leon on Facebook or Instagram at @electenriqueleon.