The notion of health has changed considerably over time—taking on a different meaning and value in every era.
Historically, it was widely accepted that being healthy was to be free of illness or disease. In an age prior to medical advances, this was the leading cause of death and was thus a constant threat to the well-being of individuals.
Then, the 1980s pioneered a breakthrough interest in health and fitness with a rising enthusiasm for bodybuilding, embodying strength and endurance as signs of good health. This Schwarzenegger-esque age was the beginning of what is today's chapter of health standards: a primary focus on eating habits and working out.
Whether through Instagram feeds of perfect, post-workout bodies or constantly being inundated with the latest health-food craze, like juicing or eating gluten-free, we can't escape the deliberate or inadvertent displays of health in society.
It is not to say that adopting these eating habits or practicing certain workouts is bad; on the contrary, they often have significant health benefits. It is, however, important to fully understand what it means to embody a healthy state of well-being in order to avoid detrimental effects on our overall physical and mental happiness.
The compulsion to be healthy—particularly on a college campus—can be confusing because it is constantly being reinterpreted, now more than ever. In order to help understand social pressures, recognize sources of motivation, and achieve a healthy mind and body, Caitriona Taylor, Director of Campus Recreation, and Hilary De Vries, Assistant Director of Fitness & Wellness at BC, share some advice.
“College students have many pressures they deal with, such as studying, exams, friends, relationships, etc.,” says Taylor. These pressures often include the need to workout continually.
Many of these pressures are what Taylor describes as “internal pressures students place on themselves to be the best they can be.”
“Some students may feel pressure to exercise in excess depending upon their surroundings,” says De Vries. “However, that pressure is probably felt to a lesser or greater degree depending upon the individual.”
Regardless of the absence or prevalence of pressure, motivation plays an important role in our physiological well-being. Intentions for staying actively healthy may be to achieve a sense of serenity, de-stress, build muscle, or win a a game. Ultimately, each person is incentivized for different reasons and, as Taylor points out, “these reasons can change over time.”
Campus Recreation promotes the idea of intrinsic motivation, which focuses on the personal fulfillment of being active and being healthy, rather than being solely extrinsically motivated out of competitiveness, an upcoming event, or for gaining approval from friends.
“We know that not everyone will automatically fall in love with exercise,” acknowledges De Vries, “but if the motivation can come from within and be connected to enjoyment, then adopting regular health and fitness habits can become more manageable.”
Health Coach for the Office of Health Promotion, Katie Montgomery, MCAS ’19, shares some of her thoughts.
“I think what motivates me—and probably a lot of other people on campus—to stay healthy is the fact that we have so many resources that we will not have as easy access to when we are out of college. We may not have a gym 300 feet away from where we live, or access to meals that are prepared for us. We won’t have a beautiful reservoir to run around.”
The Office of Health Promotion is useful resource on campus that offers a variety of services to students, including advice on sleep, stress, alcohol and drug education, nourishment, and scheduling. Students can even book individual health appointments to discuss strategies to achieve personal goals.
“We even have a nutritionist on campus!” exclaims Montgomery. “I do not think a lot of people know that!”
Being healthy is a state of well-being that embodies the entire person. Exploring a variety of different activities and resources is essential in order to feel our best in all aspects of our life—physically, emotionally, and intellectually. This can be enjoying a walk around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, taking an interesting course, or reading a good book in the Boston Common.
“People can make [staying healthy] too complicated or too strenuous,” De Vries points out. “My best tips are to find moderation in the activities you choose and to find something you can enjoy so that you are more likely to stick with it.”
Campus Recreation encourages students to adopt and develop their own sense of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle without excess exercise or fluctuating eating patterns. The purpose of this is not just for college, as Taylor asserts, but to establish “healthy habits for life.”