Libby Norris on helping students combat the ‘freshman 15’
Published Tuesday, August 28, 2012 9:04AM EDT
September means back to school and a return to regular routine. For students in high school or post secondary education, however, it may also mean an increase in demands on time and in stress – making it tough to keep fitness part of that routine.
There are so many dramatic life changes that either set or sabotage lifestyle at this critical stage. Many students drop out of the organized sport that once provided a base of activity, such as soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. For students leaving home to attend school, changes in schedules, nutrition and stress contribute to the phenomenon of the “Freshman 15”.
The bottom line -- if activity isn’t replaced and maintained during the teens and twenties, staying healthy and fit certainly doesn’t get any easier later in life. Here are a few tips for students to keep balance, perspective and avoid packing on pounds.
Make fitness social; make social active
That’s right -- attack this from both sides. Find activities that are social by nature, such as dance class, joining a gym with friends, running or bike clubs. But also choose to make your own social time more active. Instead of being at a restaurant texting with and about friends, get out for a hike and tweet some shots of you and your friends trekking through the woods, rock climbing or doing yoga. Make it a photo challenge to find the best trail or class. It only takes one brave soul to suggest something different and you will all feel amazing after.
Stay fit as a family
Being an active family doesn’t necessarily mean getting together for a half-marathon on Thanksgiving weekend. When regular activity is simply a part of daily life at home, it increases the likelihood of continuing that habit wherever students end up at school and beyond. Again, it only takes one person to suggest something active, such as walking or playing an active video game instead of crashing on the couch after dinner.
Keep fitness simple -- your “how to” guide to exercise
When we’re in organized activities, someone tells us when to warm up, what drills to do or how to perform. Once you leave that, figuring out your own fitness program can be overwhelming. There is a science to training, but being active doesn’t have to be rocket science. Eat well, move more! Well, it’s a bit more specific than that, but we use a principle called “FITT” that can help you create a balanced routine.
1. Frequency. We should be physically active 30-60 minutes every day. Intentional workouts, however, ideally range from 3-5 times weekly.
2. Intensity. A great benchmark to use to monitor intensity is “comfortable, but challenging.” If you were to rate this on a scale of 1-10, that would land you around 7-8. This would mean that you feel slightly out of your comfort zone, but certainly not at full exhaustion like a sprinter after a 100 metre race. We love using this in fitness as it’s a relative measure that grows with you as your fitness level changes. Running 5 km today may seem a stretch, but a breeze after you’ve trained for a year.
3. Time. This is referring to the duration of your activity. For general health benefits, even short bursts of 5 minutes can help to decrease risk of major diseases. To increase fitness or change body composition, however, you want to shoot for 20-60 minutes depending on the exercise.
4. Type. Here’s where I sound like a broken record -- find activities you enjoy! Try a variety of things to be your base or the motivation that gets you active regularly. From there, you want to consider creating a weekly routine that includes a focus on cardiovascular activity, strength, flexibility and balance. This starts at early ages -- women tend to gravitate to cardio and men to the weight room. We encourage everyone to strive for a balance, but I always like to emphasize to women that including resistance training is critically important to maintain your metabolism.
Being active doesn’t always have to mean joining a gym. Time and motivation tend to be the biggest barriers, so make sure you find activities you enjoy and that fit your schedule. Here are some tips for both of those issues:
- Make it fun and social. It doesn’t always have to be intense; mix in fun and casual activity.
- Be the catalyst. Activity and energy can be contagious!
- Never give up. If you find that “freshman 15,” you can lose it too.
- Think long, act short. Your long-term goal is a healthy lifestyle; choose fun and fit things to try now that add challenge, dynamic, change that you might not do later in life.
- Make simple circuits. Warm up for 5 minutes; choose 5 exercises you do for 30-60 seconds each; repeat the circuit 2-3 times; cool down and stretch for 5 minutes.
- Keep it short. Yes, 30-60 minutes is ideal, but fitting in 10-15 minutes more regularly is more effective than hit-and-miss workouts and may fit better into your schedule.
- Morning workouts. Doing a fast 15 minutes of exercise in the morning is a great way to start your day on a positive note and set yourself up for healthy choices for the rest of the day.
For the full indoor/outdoor workout routines for students and more, visit Libby's website. We’ll be adding routines all through September to help get and keep you on track!