Talking to Your Student about Physical Health

image of man at the gymCollege is an exciting time for your student. They are experiencing many new things and adapting accordingly. With demands of college life, students' physical health and adequate nutrition, sleep, and physical activity may become difficult to manage. Sleep and exercise are some of the first activities to decline as students adjust to quickly changing schedules each term. Due to the demands for balance between academic and social lives, college students may average less than 7 hours of sleep a night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night1.

You may be asking, how does sleep directly impact your student? A student with adequate sleep performs better on tests and exams and has improved memory and concentration2. In addition, over 37% of FSU students reported experiencing sleep difficulties that have negatively impacted their academic performance3. Students that have less than 6 hours of sleep demonstrate lower overall GPAs than students with more than 7 hours of sleep a night3. Then poor sleep quality is linked to increased stress for students.  

What can parents do? Some students may be overwhelmed at the idea of having prioritized sleep with college life. You can offer suggestions to them on how to gain improved sleep quality while in college. Here are easy tips on how to make sleeping easier:

  • Establishing a regular sleep cycle — meaning have a regular weekly relaxing bedtime ritual1
  • Using your bed only for sleep — if you do work (i.e. homework or studying) in your bed, you may associate the bed with stressors like schoolwork; it may be harder to wind down at night, as you will associate the bed with those stressful tasks
  • Unplugging before bedtime — avoid bright screens such as a cell phone or TV within 2 hours of your bedtime to help you sleep longer and quicker1

Exercise is another area that students struggle to maintain while in college. The American College of Sports Medicine in their physical activity guidelines (2008) recommend that adults get a minimum of 2-1/2 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. These activities could be hiking, running, exercising at the gym, or playing sports. In fact, there is even a positive relationship between exercise and sleep that shows frequent exercise increases both the quantity and quality of sleep4.

What can parents do? Some students experience class and social time constraints that restrict their ability to exercise on a weekly basis. A rule-of-thumb for prioritizing exercise is to schedule it! Parents can suggest scheduling exercise like it is a class that their students must attend. FSU provides accessible resources to help students remain consistent in their exercising plans:

  • The Leach Gym — is a free resource that is a multi-purpose gym where students can participate in weekly exercise classes, workout on their own with fitness machines and equipment or an Olympic-style pool, and workout with personal trainers and fitness coaches for one-on-one training.
  • Physical education classes — students actually get class credit while learning new skills and strategies to optimize their fitness goals. There are some great classes available to students such as introduction to fencing, self-defense, beginner weight training, and aerobic dance, etc5.
  • Intermural & Club sports — students can join teams for intermural and club sports. These teams are great ways for students to remain active and form new friendships and social relationships with other students. These groups are typically free for students to participate and range many sporting options such as softball, volleyball, soccer, and cheerleading6.

Parents, we need your help! You can make a difference in your student’s wellness choices. You can empower your student to continue to make healthy decisions that improve their physical health while at FSU.

  1. National Sleep Foundation.
  2. Franklin, B.C., Buboltz, W.C., 2002. Applying sleep research to university students: Recommendation for developing a student sleep education program.
  3. NCHA data, 2014
  4. Barbara Bushman (2013). Exercise and Sleep. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, 17(5), 5
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