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Expert Strategies for Staying Healthy at College

School, sports, and socializing can wear your body down. Here's how to stay well.

Fight the Flu

To avoid being laid up in bed with a raging fever for a week, get a flu shot this fall. The vaccine is usually available by early October, though you can benefit from a vaccination as late as early December, when there are still several months left in the flu season. This is especially important for college students who are in close quarters with roomies and classmates. Many colleges offer flu shots for free or for a small charge that's typically covered by insurance.

Chug Some Water

Be sure to down plenty of (non-alcoholic) liquids each day, Rosenthal says -- more if you exercise or tend to perspire a lot. Dehydration can make you more vulnerable to illness and infections, not to mention that feeling that you've been run over by a truck. By the time you notice you're thirsty, you're probably already dehydrated, so don't get to that point. How much water is enough? If your urine is light yellow, you're well-hydrated. If H2O isn't your thing, don't worry -- juice, tea, and other beverages count as well. 

Back Off the Drinks

Once you hit 21, your inclination may be to make up for lost time by drinking more than you should. But Rosenthal says drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor for accidents, injuries, and regrettable behaviors (which then end up on Facebook), not to mention a host of serious conditions from high blood pressure and liver disease to cancer. Stick to the recommended daily limit: no more than two beers or glasses of wine for men, and one for women.

Find Your BFFs

Having someone you can talk to and count on is important for your mental health, and the right friends will encourage healthy habits. But it can be hard to develop a circle of buds when you're new on campus, overloaded with studying, and working to boot. Seek out campus groups, play a sport, get to know your dorm mates, and otherwise put yourself out there to attract friends who will support you, and vice versa, during the college years and beyond.

Kick the Habit

Even though the risks of smoking -- like heart disease, lung cancer, and emphysema -- will elicit a big “duh” from almost any college student, some still light up. If that's you, look into the smoking cessation programs offered by your college wellness center. No luck? Check out public health departments for help. Kicking the habit isn't a maybe -- it's a must-do for your health, today and long-term.

Dorm P.T.

No gym? No problem. For a workout you can do in your dorm room with zero equipment, we talked to Melina Christidis, a certified personal trainer and group instructor at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center at California State University, Long Beach. 

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