September 4, 2015

House Call

Q: Thank you for this health column, which seems mainly to address health issues of the older generation. As a college freshman this coming fall, however, I’m hoping for advice for young adults starting their college studies.

A: We would be delighted to answer more questions related to our younger readers, and I encourage each of you to send in health questions and comments that we may share with all.

Thinking back on my own experience as a university student, it was a time of my life when sickness, death, and dying seemed such distant possibilities that they seldom entered my mind—except while working in the hospital wards!

As you embark on this exciting, challenging, and sometimes exhausting chapter of your life, there are some important choices you can make to optimize the wonderful opportunity of learning and the unforgettable joys and experiences of student life.

Adequate Sleep

Good health begins with good choices. Key to good health and performance as a student is adequate sleep and rest. This is an area that so many neglect, thinking that the longer they study, the more effectively they learn.

It has been shown that the brain requires adequate sleep and rest in order to process and store information for ready and rapid recall, not only in the short term but also as you draw on this knowledge later in your career. Ensure that your room is dark and well ventilated, and that you are able to wrench yourself away from electronic-device screens at least an hour before going to sleep. This will help to ensure that sleep architecture is optimal, and the six to seven hours of quality sleep you achieve each night will prepare you for your whole purpose of being in a place of higher learning. Social media, although very powerful, rob us of sleep and sometimes of even the deep and lasting enjoyment of just being with people and connecting through conversation and conviviality.

Daily Exercise

Choose to exercise every day. Peer-reviewed scientific health literature unanimously agrees—on the basis of robust research—that the single most important intervention that influences longevity is exercise. How much exercise? Here’s the crunch: 30 to 40 minutes of vigorous activity that ensures you perspire every day! On Sabbath, even if you choose to have a nap, a brisk walk or cycling in the outdoors will also be beneficial.

Healthful Eating

Eat wisely! Students are notorious for poor eating habits. Regularity is important. A well-balanced vegetarian diet has been shown by excellent research to increase length and quality of life. Try it! And, of course, avoid all things harmful: alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, pornography, and any addictive behaviors.

Remembering the Creator

Solomon urged that we “remember [our] creator in the days of [our] youth” (Eccl. 12:1).* Of all the advice shared here, this is the most important. Learn to know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ, because you can indeed “do all things through him who strengthens [you]” (Phil. 4:13).

Study hard—live well!

* All Bible texts are taken from the New Revised Standard Version, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.