Staying Fit


By Aigerim Dyussenova

Dani Arruda Feres, Certified Nutritionist and Personal Trainer. Photo Courtesy of Gabriel Hamsi 

Living in East Bay on a minimum wage, being a student and having two or three jobs is not something hard to imagine. How do students get by? Cut the daily expenses and minimize any extra activities such as gym memberships.

Tacos at a taco shop cost around $3-$6. Buying the ingredients for your taco—avocado $2, tomatoes $2, onion $0.60, tortillas $2-$3, meat around $7-$15—the math is already above $20. Plus travel time to the grocery store can take up to an hour, and cooking time is 40 minutes. Most students would go with the first option of simply going to the taco shop to buy cheap tacos.

However, have you thought about the amount of salt in your delicious taco beans? Salty and sugary foods can lead to many health issues, including diabetes and other heart risks. Finding affordable healthy food options is a task which comes with lots of frustration and time consumption.

For most students snacking is an important part of the daily routine, a must to stay fit and to keep from starving yourself. It is hard to imagine being healthy without having exercise on your to-do list. It can be frustrating for a student on a budget to sign up for a membership at a local gym. Gym membership requires a sign up initiation fee from $50 to $100 dollars. Monthly gym memberships cost somewhere between $30 and $79 dollars. Let’s also keep in mind the annual fee some gyms charge on top of membership fees which could be another $50 or $60 dollars. On top of the financial expense, students are also short on time to prioritize their exercise routine. With these struggles in mind, the BCC Voice interviewed local experts on diet and exercise to get some tips for students who want to stay healthy.

“Planning and preparing meals ahead of time will help save time and money, and it will help maintain a healthy lifestyle. For example, if you plan on having rice and beans on a particular day every week you can prepare the meal in bulk and freeze it in portions that can be warmed up as needed.” says certified nutritionist and personal trainer, Dani Arruda Feres. Students could choose a healthy option of buying an orange and apple for $2 instead of a muffin or scone for $3. Trader Joe’s grocery store is a 7-10 minute walk from Berkeley City College to grab prepared salad snacks.

“One great meal prep option is fruit, nuts and low-fat yogurt for breakfast. This meal can be rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats and antioxidants, and can be prepared quickly,” says Arruda Feres.

In the age of social media maintaining a healthy weight has become more like a trend than staying healthy. “The basics for maintaining a healthy body weight would be drinking plenty of water, making sure to eat fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and manage your emotional stress.” says Arruda Feres.

Busy college students have the best excuses to skip exercise from their daily routine. I’m late to my class, I’m late on my deadline, finals are approaching, etc. “When it comes to exercise, students might think the core is sweating or devoting hours in gym. Believe it or not, 30 minutes of speed walking is considered a cardiovascular exercise.” says Christian Dale Sanchez, fitness instructor at the YMCA. Dale Sanchez further explains “Both cardiovascular and weight training exercises help memory and cognitive functions by reducing insulin resistance, reducing inflammations, and stimulating the release of growth factors. All of these affect the health of brain cells and promote growth of new blood vessels in the brain.” In other words, working out will help you study better.

Thirty minutes of cardio exercise helps to improve performance whether at school or at work. For healthy brain functioning, personal trainer and fitness instructor at the YMCA, Zachary Wells says, “When you think brain function, also think blood flow. Cardio-based exercises help encourage blood flow throughout the body to promote and maintain healthy brain functioning.” Students should think of exercise as part of their semester-long project. For example, try 10-minutes of jumping jacks to prepare the brain before beginning a big writing project.

Another barrier to student health and success is sleep deprivation. Both Dale Sanchez and Wells expressed their concern about being sleep-deprived and exercising at the same time. While Dale Sanchez suggested exercises that are no more than 30 minutes and low intensity, Wells stresses the importance of a stretching routine coupled with some mind-body exercises, such as yoga or meditation.

The Bar Method Berkeley studio owner, Helen Liu approaches gym time from different prospective. “I always find that in my 60-minute workout at The Bar Method, it’s my hour to push aside all other thoughts and stay present in the moment. As a result of remaining focused and present, exercising can serve as a tremendous stress reducer. At the end of the day, if I have a clear mind and can put aside stressors, I will certainly get a better night’s sleep,” says Liu.

Make time for short exercises. “There are many ways to sneak exercises into your daily routine. Try working on your balance while washing your hands, do calf raises while brushing your teeth, or even body squats while waiting for the bus or BART. You may get some funny looks, but we are in Berkeley, so that’s OK. Everyone’s doing something funny.” says Wells. Liu adds “Before getting dressed, do 20 push-ups, stretch for 10 seconds, hold a plank for 1 minute (this targets every major muscle group), stretch briefly, and then do another 20 push-ups. This will take less than 5 minutes to complete each morning, and it’s a great way to wake your body up and build core strength.”

“Push-ups, performed on your knees or your feet, are similarly beneficial for targeting large muscle groups throughout your body and increasing cardiovascular health,” says Liu. “Start by working in a small range of motion, and over time as you develop stamina, you can make the motion larger and increase the number of reps. When your core is strong, you benefit from improved posture and reduced pain.”

Liu also pointed out that “Your deepest and strongest abdominal muscles are your transversus abdominus, which attach to your diaphragm. While sitting down, suck in your navel tightly and hold the position to engage your transversus abdominus. Do this as often as you remember to throughout the day. You will slim your abs as they become stronger. For example, whenever you’re standing in line, squeeze your thigh and glute muscles, hold for 5 seconds and then relax. Do this off and on while you’re in line.”

Staying healthy is not something students should compromise with. Having a healthy lifestyle and making it a habit is not a task that can be delegated. Only you can be the CEO of your health department. Pay attention to what you eat, and exercise daily – even 5 minutes can make a difference.

If you start a membership at The Downtown Berkeley YMCA, you can get a free Fitness Coaching session with ether Wells or Dale Sanchez. The Bar Method has a promotion for BCC students: New clients are able try 30 days of unlimited classes for only $65 (normally $99). Use promo code “BCC2017.” Promotion ends May 31, 2017. The Bar Method is located at 2095 Rose St., Ste. 102, Berkeley, CA 94709.

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