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5 healthy lifestyle tips that boost your grades

Sensible habits and moderation pay off in academic performance
October 16, 2014
By Gabriela Szabo

Many studies show a link between healthy behaviours and academic performance, including grades Many studies show a link between healthy behaviours and academic performance. | Photo by Concordia University

Ahmed is a second-year Concordia student studying biology. He starts the day with a fresh, healthy breakfast before heading to his first class. At midday, he hits the gym for 30 minutes to break a sweat and ease the morning’s stress. While writing a quiz later, he uses deep breathing exercises to calm down and help him focus. Before he turns in for the night, he turns his phone off so he can fall asleep at his usual time. Ahmed believes that these habits will help him do well in school.

His instincts are right. Many studies show a link between healthy behaviours and academic performance, including grades. Here are some healthy living strategies that will help you meet the academic challenges of the year:

1.    Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet is a plant-based diet. This means choosing fruit, vegetables and grains — whole grains, when you can — more often. You can also choose protein-rich plant foods, such as beans, nuts and seeds, instead of meat.

Canada’s Food Guide offers an overview of healthy eating and is a great place to start. Health Services’ Healthy Eating: A Practical Guide is another helpful resource. You can pick up a copy of these documents from the Health Services waiting room or get them online.

2.    Engage in regular physical activity

When you move, blood flow increases to your brain. It brings oxygen and removes the by-products your brain makes from all your thinking, learning and problem-solving. In fact, a recent, large-scale study of college students found that those who met physical activity recommendations had higher grades than those who weren’t as active.The recommendation is 150 minutes — that’s only two and a half hours — of moderate-intensity activity a week. You don’t need to cut into your study time to gain substantial benefits.

For more information, check out 5 ways to get fit this fall, and Physical Activity on the Health Services web page.

3.    Manage stress

Stress is a part of life. A little stress can be helpful, as it stimulates you to accomplish your goals. Too often, though, stress becomes overwhelming. In the 2013 National College Health Assessment (NCHA), Concordia students named stress as the most common factor affecting their academic performance. Learn to manage stress, and you’ll find the other elements of healthy living fall into place.

For information on stress and how to manage it, consult Health Services’ Stress Management: A Practical Guide online or pick up a copy at the Health Services waiting room.

4.    Get enough sleep

Getting enough good-quality sleep allows your brain to function as well as it can. Sleep deprivation messes with your concentration, creativity and problem solving. In short, all the tools you need for school. A key sleep strategy is to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day — even on weekends.

5.    If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation

Heavy drinking is proven to take its toll on your grades. Students who drink heavily are more likely to miss classes, fall behind, spend less time studying, do poorly on exams or papers, and receive lower overall grades.

If you drink, do so in moderation. And just how much is that? Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines say that if you choose to drink, drink no more than:

  • 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than two drinks a day on most days
  • 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than three drinks a day on most days
  • no more than three drinks for women and four drinks (for men) on any single occasion, such as a party

Student Services are here to help!

A recent study found that university students rated health centre medical staff — along with parents — as the most believable sources of health information. Yet for busy students, it can be challenging to fit an appointment into your already full schedule.

Watch out for Student Services Healthy You at CU kiosk out and about on campus every week this term! Come by to talk with a health promotion specialist or a nurse, book an appointment on the spot, and pick up some reliable, evidence-based health information. We can help you set, achieve, and maintain your health goals.

See more healthy living information at Health Services online.

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