Health: How to keep in good shape

You'll be sharper in lectures as well as on the dance floor
Click to follow
The Independent Online

With a new couse to start, a new place to live and roughly 14,302 new people to meet, it's possible that your health isn't high on your current list of priorities. But if you consider it now, you're less likely to have it interrupting your fun in the near future, and you'll be prepared if anything does go wrong. Here, then, is your indispensable guide to staying healthy at university... knock yourselves out. (Not literally, of course.)

Get a GP sharpish

Whether or not you've yet succumbed to freshers' flu, you should find a doctor as soon as possible. Ideally do this while you're healthy; filling out forms during feverish hallucinations is far more difficult. If you're living in halls of residence, they should advise you as to your nearest GP surgery; otherwise find it at

Know your meningitis facts

While meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) is well known as an illness students can get, it's not one to use as an excuse for missing that 9am Monday morning tutorial. This is a seriously nasty disease, recognisable by some or all of the following: vomiting, severe headaches, sensitivity to light, confusion, a temperature, sore or stiff joints, fitting and a nasty rash. If you suspect you have meningitis, get medical attention straight away as it can be life-threatening.

Drink sensibly

As with so many things, the best way to enjoy drinking is not to overdo it. After all, there's nothing very fun about putting someone in the recovery position while they spew Blue WKD on to the pavement. Or about having a drink-fuelled row. Stomach-pumping isn't high on laughs, in fact. Neither, now we come to think of it, is getting so trashed that it leaves you vulnrable to getting mugged or raped on the way home. The Department Of Health recommends no more than 28 units a week for men (where a glass of wine is one unit and a pint is two units), and 21 for women. Try to stick to it.

Drugs can damage your health

Illegal drugs, besides funding some very wrong things, can kill you or affect your long-term mental health. Never has there been more reason to just say no. Simple.

Watch what you eat

According to our national newspapers, yours is the last non-obese, non-diabetic generation of students. Keep it that way by eating regular healthy meals. Sensible types will get around one third of their calories from carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta and cereal, for example) and the rest from protein (the likes of meat, fish, cheese, tofu and lentils), fruits and vegetables. Occasional treats are fine, but if you're on first-name terms with the staff at your local kebab shop, it's time to rein it in.

Jump around

Quite a basic one this: spend your days sitting on the sofa watching Neighbours and Hollyoaks on a loop and you will become fat and lethargic and get a diseased heart. Join a sports club, have a kick-about, dance the night away in a club, go for a run or cycle into university and you will be healthy and, no doubt, irresistibly attractive. What's not to love about exercise?

SSG suggests...

While you're getting a GP, sort yourself out with an NHS dentist. It's a worthwhile investment if you want to keep all your own teeth beyond, say, the age of 25.

Like a car, you need plenty of water to keep from overheating. Unlike a car you need around eight glasses a day to supply oxygen to cells, remove waste and generally avoid turning into a cream cracker. Oh, and you don't need petrol or windscreen wipers either.

Slap on an SPF15 or higher sun cream whenever the sun is shining and you'll be laughing - without lines permanently etched on your leathery husk of a face or skin cancer worries.

That cheese in your hand? The one you've just grabbed from the fridge that has a Post-it note saying "Rachel" on it, even though no one called Rachel has entered the kitchen for at least three years? Throw it out, along with (in particular) any ageing meat, salad and cooked rice.

Many studies say that supplements contain vitamins in an unnatural form, and so aren't digested properly. For a quick nutritional fix, eat superfoods like blueberries or spinach instead.

Web aid

NHS Direct

For comprehensive medical information.

Student Health

An encyclopedia of all things health-related, including first aid, diet and exercise.

The Meningitis Research Foundation

Further information on the causes and prevention of the disease.