Staying Active on Campus

By Kelly Burch

Staying active can do a lot for your mental and physical health—from helping prevent and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety to connecting you with other people on campus. One study suggests that college students who are physically active may even experience greater emotional intelligence and well-being.

The sticking point with regular movement, though, is that it can be tough to make it a habit. Plus, if you’re someone who experiences mobility challenges, social anxiety, or another disability, it might be especially difficult to find a form of on-campus exercise that meets your needs.

Every college student deserves the opportunity to move in a way that brings them joy and just feels right. If you need accommodations to make exercise more accessible, get in touch with your school’s disability services office, which is required by law to help you get access to courses, gym equipment, or even sports teams in a way that meets your needs. 

Try these simple tips to help you make stay active in college.

Take a Course for Credit

Have you ever wanted to learn how to belly dance? Scuba dive? Kickbox? These are just a smattering of the options for physical education credits that many colleges and universities offer. You’ll not only learn an awesome new skill but also earn credits toward your degree while you do it. Try out one physical education class each semester until you find the activity you really love.

Join a Club Sport

College sports aren’t just for elite athletes. Intramural sports allow anyone to join, while club sports are a little more competitive and may require tryouts. Across campus, there are tons of opportunities to try a sport you have no experience with, from rugby to Ultimate Frisbee. 

You’ll meet new people at practice, giving you the chance to expand your social circle. But that’s not the only benefit: Research suggests that students who participate in club sports may get better grades than those who don’t.

Use the Fitness Center

There’s no such thing as a free gym—unless you’re in college. Many universities have a fitness center, and a lot of them have extraordinary facilities like pools, rock walls, and more. Best of all, they’re almost always free to students. (Well, kind of: You’re already paying for these facilities as part of your tuition, so get your money’s worth!)

Having trouble staying motivated? Save the most recent episode of your favorite show to watch while walking on the treadmill. Or hit the gym to blow off steam after your most frustrating class.


Walking is a simple and effective way to fit movement into your day, and it doesn’t require that your college have a fitness facility. Walking regularly can help improve sleep quality and fight loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace each day (about the speed you’ll need to take to get to class on time). That’s 30 minutes total—you can get the same benefit by doing a few minutes at a time throughout the day. So don’t underestimate the power of walking to class regularly.

Use the Buddy System

Enlist a roommate, friend, or classmate as a workout buddy. You can jog, go on walks or hikes, attend fitness classes together, and encourage each other to stay more active. People who work out with a friend are usually more consistent with their exercise routine and more likely to try an adventurous activity.

Put Movement on Your Schedule

One of the biggest challenges on campus is managing your time. It might seem like you don’t have time to exercise amid work, classes, and keeping up with friends and social events. That’s why it can be helpful to put exercise on your calendar: Block off an hour after class or in the middle of the day, and make that your dedicated movement time. Once you commit, even if it’s only to yourself, you’ll be more likely to stick with the routine. 

Staying active on campus is a way to take charge of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Remember that exercise and movement should be fun and joyful. If you don’t like a particular exercise, that’s OK—there are plenty of other options out there to make physical activity something you look forward to every day.

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