Physical Well-Being

Physical well-being is to engage in a dynamic state of continuous physiological renewal

Tips on Improving Physical Well-Being

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic, there are many ways that physical activity can help you, both physically and mentally. 

Physical well-being:

  • Exercise can help you sleep better.
  • Staying active lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and reduces your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
  • Exercise boosts your energy levels.
  • Physical activity can also help you quit smoking and relieve addictive behaviors.
  • Exercise improves mental health overall.

Physical well-being can be improved by different activities. Taking care of mental health, improving your ergonomics, and boosting your nutrition are key components for physical well-being.

Mental Health:

  • Regular exercise can serve as a form of meditation to help you feel calmer and clearer-headed.
  • Exercise can give you a break from the things that cause stress so you can come back to your day refreshed and rejuvenated.
  • Exercise can make you feel happier, more confident, and more in control of your life.
  • Exercise can help manage and reduce the risk of depression, stress, and anxiety.


  • Ergonomics is the study of people and their work conditions. A big part of this for students and employees who spend many hours in front of computers means making your work environment more comfortable and preventing discomfort and injury caused by the work environment. 
  • According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Research Services and MedlinePlus, here are some ways to improve your ergonomics:
    • Make sure your computer monitor is directly in front of you, with the top of the viewing screen at eye level.
    • Make sure your monitor is an arm’s length in front of you.
    • Tilt the monitor back 10-20 degrees.
    • Don’t stay in one position for long periods of time, and alter between sitting and standing. 
    • Adjust your chair height so that your feet rest flat on the floor, and sit upright with your thighs parallel to the floor and the backs of the knees a few inches in front of the edge of your seat. 
    • Position your keyboard so that your shoulders can relax and your forearms are parallel to the floor, keeping it close to you and your mouse at the same eight as the keyboard. 
    • Keep your head stacked on top of your shoulders and your shoulders stacked on top of your hips. Don’t cross your legs while sitting. 
    • Keep your shoulders back, your stomach engaged, and your head level rather than letting it round forward or tilt backward.


According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Psychological Association, good nutrition is associated with reduced risk of diseases, improved quality of life, and reduced the risk of depression and its symptoms. Here are some tips to improve your nutrition:

  • Learn how to listen to and respect your body. Paying attention to your hunger and fullness, your energy levels, how certain foods make you feel, and your emotions around eating will help you develop a healthy relationship with food. For more information, look at the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.
  • Take a few days to keep a food diary, either in a notebook or as a note in your phone. Write down what you eat throughout the day, how much you enjoy it, and how it makes you feel. You can then use this diary to help you figure out which parts of the plate you may need to focus more on. 
  • Taking just a  few minutes out of your day to fully focus on and enjoy your meal makes it easier to listen to what your body needs and to notice hunger/ fullness cues. As busy graduate students, it can be hard to make enough time to sit down and eat meals and snacks. However, it is very important to focus on your meal. Click here to learn more about mindful eating from Registered Dietitian Alissa Rumsey.

How can we make physical activity work for your physical health? There are three steps to start with: Overcoming barriers, Creating a workout plan, Sticking with it.

Overcoming barriers:

Many people find it difficult to establish a workout routine and stay physically active. The Mayo Clinic offers several tips to overcome common challenges:

  • Be creative with your time. When you’re struggling to concentrate on your schoolwork, take a 10-15 minute break to be active. Take a walk, stretch for a few minutes, or use a YouTube video to do a mini-workout! It will help you focus better and be more productive! 
  • Squeeze in short walks throughout the day, and get up 30 minutes earlier once or twice a week.
  • Find what works for YOU! Don't force yourself to exercise in ways that you think are boring or unenjoyable - rotate through different activities. Check out recreational sports leagues or classes, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t enjoy every form of exercise. Pay attention to which ones you enjoy and how it makes you feel!

For more information, visit the website.

Creating a workout plan:

Keeping a consistent schedule is one of the most important factors when it comes to maintaining physical activity and wellness. Here are some tips on how to do this:

  • Once you figure out what works for you, add exercise to your calendar just like you add classes and meetings. 
  • Taking it slowly is important - start with just a few scheduled times for exercise each week, and you can add more as that becomes part of your routine. 
  • Think of what motivates you to exercise (stress, low energy, lack of focus, etc), and pay attention to how exercise is helping. If it isn’t working, try something different.
  • Make sure you schedule a time to rest and recover - maybe leave some days when you just take a short walk or do some light stretching. 
  • Journal about how things are going, using a notebook or even the notes app, including both objective (time, number of laps, etc) and subjective (feelings, challenges) notes.

Sticking with it:

We know that it can be difficult to stick with your plan! Harvard Medical School has some tips for overcoming the difficulty related to keeping a workout routine:

  • Make the time fit. You know your schedule best - make compromises that you know you can honor.
    • Add some recreational activity to your daily or weekly tasks. Take a longer route on your walk home, use the stairs more often, and think of other ways in which you push your body just a little bit more.
  • Set a long-term goal with frequent checkpoints. Acknowledge that you won't shift your lifestyle overnight, but think about ways that you can break it up while building towards a bigger goal.
  • Reward yourself.
    • Giving yourself a token of appreciation for accomplishing a week's worth of goals can motivate you to keep going.

SEAS Masters and PhD students can access a series of yoga classes taught by registered yoga instructor, Autumn Rauchwerk

Explore Further

With COVID-19, getting movement into our days can be difficult, but it is also especially important. From the scientific article, movement can help you alleviate stress, boost your energy, and help you sleep better. It is the most important to figure out what type of movement feels best for you and your body,

  • Add in small breaks to your day to step away and move your body a bit. Put these 15 minute breaks on your calendar.
  • It can help to have a buddy to do this with who has the same time scheduled on their calendar - a friend or family member in your home or someone that you can video call during this time.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Make a playlist of 3 to 5 songs that energize you, and let yourself move freely to the music - dancing, singing, lip synching, whatever feels best! 
  • Take some time to put together a list of workout or yoga classes on YouTube that you like, and for each movement break, put the link to a different one in your calendar event. You can even have a friend or family member choose your class for the day to make it a surprise! 
  • If you have access to the outdoors, put on your mask and gloves, and take a walk, being sure to keep your distance from other folks outside. Try doing this without the distraction of your phone and while paying attention to your surroundings.
  • Keep a journal with notes about the activities you are doing, how you are feeling, what motivates you, and what is working or not working.
  • Have a friend or family member you check in with once a week to talk about how you have been feeling, what movement has been feeling good, what movement hasn’t been working for you, what time of day it feels best to move, and to share inspirations and ideas. 

It is important to understand a few basics about nutrition in order to effectively improve your diet. Plate models are useful tools that can help you choose what to eat and how to find balance in your diet.

According to ChooseMyPlate, there are five food groups. The main point of this section is to help you understand the different food groups and nutrients that are important parts of a healthy diet. 


Vegetables are the most important part of your plate because they’re so nutrient dense, meaning they are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is a great idea to increase your vegetable intake - try to eat more vegetables than anything else. 

Vegetables include: greens, bok choy, broccoli, long beans, green beans, radishes, cabbage, zucchini, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, and tomatoes.


Fruits serve similar roles to vegetables. They are also high in vitamins and minerals, though they have more sugar than vegetables. 

Sugar from fruit is not a bad thing because it gives you energy. Fruits are great options to have during breakfast or as snacks to boost your energy throughout the day. 

Fruits include: apples, pears, mangos, lychees, papayas, dragonfruit, bananas, grapes, oranges, peaches, and berries.


Grains and starchy vegetables (like potatoes) are important because they are high in carbohydrates, the body’s primary energy source. Eating enough carbohydrates is important to make you feel satisfied, and getting enough fiber from whole grains helps keep you full longer and aids with digestion. 

When choosing grains, try to focus on whole grains as much as possible, which means choosing whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and quinoa instead of white bread, white pasta, and white rice. 

If you prefer white rice, pasta, and bread, that’s okay! Try adding a larger portion of vegetables alongside these foods to boost your fiber intake. 

Grains/starches include: rice, quinoa, pasta, bread, tortillas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yucca.


Protein is important for building muscle and other tissues in the body. Protein helps you feel full and satisfied, so make sure you get some during each of your meals. 

Protein includes:

  • Lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, and soy products.
  • Edamame, tofu and other soy products, beans, and lentils. 
  • Fish, shellfish, chicken, beef, pork, and eggs.


Dairy is a good source of calcium, which is important for building strong bones.If you do not eat dairy, make sure you eat or drink something that is fortified with calcium (i.e. soy milk). Choose low fat or fat-free dairy options when possible! Also, most dairy is also a great source of protein.

Dairy includes: milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Maintaining proper nutrition is an essential part of staying healthy and balanced. Nutrition 101: Healthy Eating Made Simple is a short online tutorial taught by Autumn Rauchwerk on how to eat healthy. This video is only available for SEAS graduate students.


Columbia Health Medical Services

Columbia Health Medical Service offer routine and urgent medical care, travel medicine, immunizations, sexual and reproductive health services, LGBTQ health care, confidential HIV testing etc. For quick overview of services, watch this video. Columbia Health is currently offering telehealth appointments. Click the link to learn more about how to make an appointment, available services, etc.

Columbia Health Insurance Office

Columbia Health Insurance Office helps students access affordable healthcare services to protect the health and well-being of the Columbia Community. Watch this video to learn about Columbia Student Insurance. 

Food Pantry at Columbia

The Food Pantry at Columbia is a student-run, student-managed initiative that is open to all students, whether you are an undergrad, a graduate student, or a professional student...full-time, part-time, or half-time. Any student who has any level of food insecurity can reach out to The Food Pantry to get a disbursement containing non-perishable food such as canned-meat, canned vegetables, canned fruit, cold and hot cereal, and vegetarian options. Any information shared with The Food Pantry will remain in strict confidence. To learn more, watch this tutorial. 

**50 Haven Avenue and Lerner Hall location are currently open. For more information, visit the website. Looking for additional resources to get food? Here is a list of Food Pantries around the New York City community.

Dodge Fitness Center

The Dodge Fitness Center is home to the University's gym and athletic facilities. Check out some of the wellness programming that the Fitness Center offers

Columbia Transportation

Columbia Transportation has a vast variety of resources relating to biking to campus, keeping your bike safe, bike-sharing programs, and other bike trails around New York City. If you are able to bike, it can be a great way to incorporate physical activity into your daily life!


MyFitnessPal is a useful tool to track your meals and exercise. The app remembers what you've eaten and done most often in the past, and makes it easy for you to add those foods again to your log.

Nike Training Club

This app provides free workouts for everything from HIT, invigorating yoga classes, bodyweight workouts you can do with minimum to no equipment, or cardio to get your heart rate pounding. Switch it up with 185+ free expertly designed workouts for all levels from our world-class Nike Master Trainers. 

How to Design Your Own Workout Program: A Guide for Beginners

This article contains five factors you’ll want to consider in building your workout program, along with an example from the running world. 

TED Talk: The Brain-Changing Benefits of Exercise

What's the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? Exercise! says neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki. Get inspired to go to the gym as Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory -- and protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

Food Bank For New York City

The Food Bank For New York City runs warehouses and distributes free food for over 1.5 million hungry New Yorkers each year. There is information regarding local food pantries in NYC as well.