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July 29, 2014

Back-to-school health tips

With fall classes around the corner, students returning to campus are ready to start school and catch up with friends. For new students, coming to a campus like MSU can be overwhelming and create some bad health habits.

Keeping track of personal health can be difficult, but with the right resources provided by MSU, students can make their health a priority in their everyday lives.

Health educators at MSU are able to give some insight on how students can stay physically and mentally healthy at college.

Physical health

For Jim Pivarnik, staying on top of one’s physical health is very important to relieving stress and doing well in classes. As a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center of Physical Activity and Health, he said for students to stay active, they can do activities that correlate to their everyday fitness.

“There is something that everyone can do, regardless of their fitness level,” Pivarnik said. “If you are more active, you can join an intramural team or go to the fitness centers, so there are a lot of different options at MSU.”

Pivarnik said students fall into a routine of either hurrying to class or sitting in a study carrel all day, and do not participate in much physical activity in between. Even walking along the Red Cedar River can relieve stress and clear your mind.

“Take some time for yourself and have some fun while you are at it,” Pivarnik said. “The sooner you feel a part of this environment and feel that this is your home or hometown for the next two to five years, you embrace it and utilize all the advantages that a large school like MSU has.”

Contact Pivarnik at (517) 353-3520 or or learn more about the Center for Physical Activity and Health at

Mental health

Scott Becker, director of the Counseling Center at MSU, said students who are feeling distressed should utilize the center on campus because there are professionals ready to help any time.

“Basically, the counseling center is the first point of contact for any student who is feeling that things are out of balance, or in distress that they want professional help,” Becker said.

In regards to the multiple outside sources that impact students' lives, Becker said some of the most important influences include financial and social issues.

The Counseling Center offers individual and group counseling. The center also shares the information they have regarding stress reduction, mindfulness, coping skills and more with those involved in residence education and health education.

Contact Becker at (517) 355-8270 or or learn more about the Counseling Center at


When it comes to keeping tabs on students’ nutrition, Joyce McGarry, food, nutrition and food safety educator at MSU Extension, said having a wide range of foods is key to a healthy regime.

McGarry also said for those students who are living off campus, it is easier for them to prepare healthier food and be conscious of their portion sizes.

“I know time is always on short supply, so it’s not always easy to prepare your meals,” McGarry said. “But you do have a kitchen when you have an off-site apartment or house, so it does make it a little easier to control what you are able to prepare.”

For tackling the grocery store, McGarry said students should look towards whole grains, fruits and vegetables, in addition to avoiding the center of the store where most processed foods are placed.

Campus residential dining halls and retail food venues offer a variety of healthy food options to choose from, including menu items to support ovo-lacto vegetarianism and vegan diets. For more information about on-campus dining, visit

Contact McGarry at (517) 887-4587 or or learn more about food and nutrition at


For employees at Olin Health Center, such as Dennis Martell, making sure students are taken care of in all aspects of health is a top priority. The health education services coordinator said utilizing the resources at MSU is not hard because the people there want to help students.

Olin Health Center offers information and service to students regarding academic impediments, alcohol and drug use, exercise, medical concerns, nutrition, sexual wellness and more. There are four neighborhood clinics in addition to the Olin Health Center to make services more convenient for students.

“I’ve never been in a place – and I’ve been around the U.S. – where more people want to help you than MSU,” Martell said. “They really do want to help you; it’s a big place. So, how do you deal with stress and wanting good mental health? Find a community that will support you.”

Asking for help no matter what the situation, Martell said, is very important in keeping your life organized and balancing everything that involves being in college.

“It’s a transition and it’s a major one, but you can make it,” Martell said.

Contact Dennis Martell at (517) 432-1031 or or learn more about the Olin Health Center at

For more tips about all aspects of personal health, watch the attached video.