A Fitness Plan for Time-Crunched College Students

In this installment of Healthy Living, we’re going to build a sample fitness program for time-crunched college students, that can be followed on a weekly basis. This program caters to a college student who: 1) has a very busy schedule 2) wants to lose weight and increase fitness 3) enjoys a variety of fitness activities.

20 minute run
5 minutes of core exercises

30 minutes is plenty of time to make significant fitness gains. 20 consecutive minutes of aerobic exercise at a moderate effort level is enough cause many positive changes including burning calories, decreasing body fat, strengthening the heart and lungs, decreasing cholesterol and blood pressure, increasing bone/ligament/tendon strength, increasing energy, and more. The list goes on and on. See below for more on the core exercises.

20 minutes rowing machine
30 minutes full body weight lifting

Rowing is a great alternative to running for aerobic fitness improvement. Similar to running, 20 minutes of sustained moderate effort rowing is the proper amount to increase aerobic fitness. This can be followed up with a quick circuit training weight lifting routine (look for future article on circuit training weight lifting for the time-crunched student).

studing doing yogaWEDNESDAY
1 hour Yoga/Zumba/Boxing/Spin Class

A great way to keep exercising fun is a weekly group exercise class. D’Youville College offers a variety of classes, such as yoga, zumba and boxing on campus. If these are not for you, fitness centers within a few miles of school offer a huge variety of classes. Inquire about student rates; you may be surprised at how affordable these classes can be for the college student. (Shameless plug: BikeOrBar on Elmwood Ave offers individual fitness classes to students for as low as $5 a session! Also, Buffalo Yoga offers a 6-session class pass for only $35)


Pick your busiest day of the week, and take it off. Rest days are important. Whether you take a day off every 3-4 days or every 10 days, your body and mind will thank you for the day off. Studies show you are more likely to stick to a long-term program with these rest days built in.

20 minute run
5 minutes of core exercises

Repeat Monday. “Core work for the time-crunched student” will be coming out in a future article. Greater core strength allows for better posture in sitting, standing, and with movement. This results in better overall body function and is a major component in decreasing/eliminating the dreaded “low back pain”.

D'Youville's pool

D’Youville’s pool, located in the College Center

30 minutes swimming
30 minutes full body weight lifting

Take advantage of the weekend for slightly longer sessions. As a college student you might have a few extra calories to burn over the weekend anyway. DYC has a pool in the College Center that is free for student use and is severely underutilized at the moment. Mix up the strokes and even tread water (try no-handed!). As long as you’re keeping up consistent activity for the 20-30 minutes in the pool, you’ll get many of the same positive results that running and rowing give you. Best part about swimming is that it is “non-impact” and a great way to add in more aerobic conditioning without putting extra stress on your joints.


For many, adding in a day of competitive activity each week gives a little more meaning to a week’s worth of exercise. Other ideas include 5k run races, pick-up soccer, downhill or cross-country skiing. For the outdoor-inclined, a long bike ride or hike (1.5 hours+) is also a great way to switch it up on the weekend.

TOTAL TIMEbasketball players 4 hours 40 minutes

4 hours and 40 minutes of exercising per week. Seems reasonable? Find a way to make the above plan (or something close to it) a part of your lifestyle and within 1-2 months you WILL see and feel a difference. Any questions? Comments? Let me know in the comments section below:

About the author


Major: Doctorate of Physical Therapy
Where I'm from: Downstate NY
When I graduate: I hope to work as an outpatient physical therapist, specializing in sports rehabilitation.


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