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Back to School: Managing Schedules, Healthy Lunches, Exercise and Sleep

Summer has ended and school is back in session- which means most of us are in the thick of balancing classes, healthy eating on the go, exercise and sleep. Here are some tips and things to consider to keep the year calm, cool, and healthy.

Schedules can get pretty stressful between work meetings, deadlines, school obligations, side projects and just plain keeping the house clean. Studies have shown that increased stress can lead to poor quality of sleep, and increased rates of illness.1 To avoid stress just from managing schedules, there are some fantastic applications that you can use on any device, and even share, to keep the chaos at a minimum and get everyone where they need to be at the right time. Some recommendations include:

Appointy – Good for schedules that are multifaceted with meetings, classes, events and appointments. It can be used as a plug in with WordPress. 2

Doodle  – this app is great for office or busy family life allowing for ease to share appointments and events with others. Any person’s calendar you are associated with will display, so you can see what is going on in their day or what the soccer meet obligations are for the weekend. It is also great for collaborative work. 2

Calendly  – This is an easy interface to use and allows more control over who and when can set meetings and appoints, so your travel time doesn’t get merged with another meeting. It can also limit how last-minute things get added to the calendar, keeping your schedule from complete chaos. 2 

iProcrastinate  –  This program is great for students as it allows for organizing to do lists and the ability to list out steps for each project. You can even set priority levels to each task and share them with others. 3

Cozi App – This is great for families as it is easy to use and share. It features easy tracking for recurring appointments, meal planning assistance and to do lists. You can easily view other people’s schedules, organize shopping lists and add pictures.4

Google Calendar – Many people use Gmail as their email address, and so it is a simple move to using google calendar to keep track of life’s events. This is a great option for business and home, as calendars can easily be made to share with the whole family, one person, or a group. Every person and calendar can be color coded and easily viewed.4

Packing lunches or eating on the go make keeping a healthy diet a challenge. It can be overwhelming to prepare healthy and filling foods while you are trying to get in your morning run and coffee- so plan ahead and keep these ideas in mind as you prepare your meals:

  • The amount you eat is just as important and the types of food that you eat. If your portions are too big, or out of balance with nutrient dense food, this will often lead to over eating and change your satiation level.5  Recommendations for portion sizes and control include eating more fruits and vegetables and smaller portions of proteins and fattier foods.5,6 Processed grains and other foods should be kept at a minimum along with sweets.6 Need an indulgence after a meal? Try a small piece of dark chocolate, or even a piece of xylitol based gum to take care of that craving.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine say that women should drink about 11.5 cups of fluids per day, and 15 cups for men.7 Typically you get 20% of your needed water from foods, but the rest comes from caffeine-free beverages such as water. Dehydration can also cause headaches, which can slow your productivity and effect your ability to focus.7
  • Healthy, plant based food choices have been shown to reduce the risk for CVD and diabetes.6 Choosing foods that are whole grains, leafy greens and fruit can help keep you feeling good. These food choices also contain high fiber and vitamins and minerals to keep away those colds and keep your gut happy.6 So instead of reaching for that processed carbohydrate, sugary bar at the grocery store, try a bag of baby carrots, sugar snap peas or an apple.
  • Protein sources can be challenging, especially on the go. Fish and salmon are great choices because of their low-fat content and fish especially because it contains omega fatty acids, but these may not always be convenient.6 Try less traditional alternatives such as adding jerky to your lunch box. And don’t forget legumes and quinoa are great choices to fill you up and get the protein you need. Try keeping a bag of nuts in your desk or car- it’s a perfect go-to for those snacking moments.
  • If you are packing lunches for kids, dilemmas abound. Many kids are pretty picky about their food, and peer pressure can make packing a healthy lunch challenging. And just like for an adult, kids need fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and fats.8 If you are packing sandwiches, try using a whole grain, high fiber bread. Have them keep nuts in their backpack in case they get hungry (avoid peanuts because of allergies).
  • Kids love indulgent foods too, so try fresh fruit, or one of my favorites: banana, nut butter and mini chocolate chip “sushi.” If you need some inspiration the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a wealth of ideas and pictures.8

Getting enough exercise and sleep are key to staying healthy for you and the whole family. The U.S. department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of aerobic activity over the course of a week.9 The department also recommends strength training exercises two times per week.9 Moderate activity includes brisk walking, swimming, even some serious vacuuming. In general, trying to get 20-30 minutes of exercise per day is a good goal. 10

Other things that can help increase your physical activity and stay healthy include breaking up long periods of sitting with standing or even short walks in between meetings. Or, instead of an office meeting- try a walk around the building instead. And don’t forget that kids need aerobic exercise as well, recommendations say at least one hour for school age children per day. 10,11

Many research studies have shown a link between getting exercise impacting sleep quality and mood. 10,12 One in three adults don’t get the quality and amount of sleep that they should. 12   So, if you aren’t able to sleep well, trying exercise is a good first line of defense.

Sleep and exercise are often the first items that get cut when family and work obligations start to add up. However, before you skip that yoga class or stay up writing those emails consider a few research facts: lack of sleep is associated with higher risks of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, CVD and poor mental health.10, 12 Not to mention that missing out on the Zzzz’s decreases production, ability to concentrate and makes you sleepier the following day. 12

How much sleep your body needs changes with age, The CDC recommendations for adults are 7 hours of sleep per night. For teenagers and school age children that number increases to 8-10 hours and 9-12 hours, respectively.

Beyond getting your needed exercise other tips for getting a good night’s sleep include going to bed at a consistent time, turning off all electronics 30 minutes prior to bed time, and avoid caffeine late in the day.12

Plan ahead, eat whole foods, utilize technology to reduce stress, and don’t forget to prioritize sleep and exercise to help stay fit, healthy, and happy this academic year.

Key takeaways:

  • To reduce stress there are many applications that can help with both work and home scheduling such as Google Calendar, Appointy and iProcrastinate
  • To prevent metabolic and heart disease be sure to eat healthy, even if on the go by using portion control, eating more fruits and vegetables, and staying hydrated
  • Sleep and exercise are critical to staying healthy and reducing risk for stroke and diabetes. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep each day and 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week


  1. Chrousos GP. Stress and disorders of the stress system. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. 2009;5(7):374-381.
  2. Team Mindful: 7 awesome scheduling apps that could save your sanity. Business Insider. Published December 13, 2016. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  3. Lytle, R. 5 Apps That Can Help Students Manage College Life. Published March 22, 2012. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  4. Glover, S. Finding the Family Calendar App That Works for Your Family. Published July 3, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  5. Brunstrom JM. Mind over platter: pre-meal planning and the control of meal size in humans. International Journal of Obesity. 2014;38.
  6. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease. Mayo Clinic. Published March 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  7. Water: How much should you drink every day? Mayo Clinic. Published September 6, 2017. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  8. Healthy School Lunches. The Physicians Committee. Published June 1, 2017. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  9. Laskowski MDER. How much exercise do you really need? Mayo Clinic. Published August 20, 2016. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  10. How Much Physical Activity and Sleep Do Children and Teens Need? Obesity Prevention Source. Published April 12, 2016. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  11. Back-to-School Health Tips: Exercise and Sleep. NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine. Accessed September 22, 2017.
  12. Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published March 9, 2017. Accessed September 22, 2017.

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