How to Stay in Shape After College Graduation

Two young males jogging in an urban area together
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When I graduated from college, I remember the relief of never having to take another final exam or sit through another boring lecture and the utter terror at finding a job and figuring out the rest of my life. With those big decisions to deal with, the last thing I worried about was staying fit and exercising, something I eventually regretted.

What I learned is that going from a relatively active college life to a sedentary full-time job leads to weight gain, something you can avoid if you establish a healthy routine now.

Exercise can relieve stress, easing you through this difficult transition, while boosting your confidence at a time you need it the most. You'll also have a big advantage going into the workforce. It's easier to work in exercise from the beginning than to squeeze it into a stressful work schedule later on.

Figuring out how to do that can be a challenge, but all it takes is a little knowledge and planning to get started on the right foot.

How to Exercise in a Post-College World

When you leave college, everything changes—especially your exercise habits. With your energy spent finding a job or starting a job, your activity drops and your stress levels may spike. Below, you'll find out about the most common pitfalls and how you can prepare for them:

No More Free Workouts

If you had access to a free campus gym or discounted membership elsewhere, you now have to pay full price or find other ways to exercise. Here are some ideas.

The Fix: Where to Exercise

If you're on a budget, as many graduates are, you may need to be creative about where and how you exercise. Some options include:

  • At home: Set up a home gym with basic equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, and a stability ball. If money is an issue, there are ways to save money by buying secondhand equipment or even making your own weights. Try these workouts you can do at home.
  • Outside: Running and walking are great ways to stay fit and manage your weight and only require a good pair of shoes. You can also try cycling, playing tennis, basketball games at your local park, or meet up with fitness groups in your area. You could also try an outdoor circuit workout.
  • At the gym: To save money, look for small local gyms that charge lower fees, community centers, or your local YMCA, which usually aren't as expensive as larger health clubs.
  • At the office: If you already have a job, take advantage of your onsite fitness center, if you have one, or any health club discounts your company offers.

Your Schedule

In college, you may have more freedom and time to exercise. A full-time job will take up most of your day, leaving less time and energy to workout.

The Fix: Fitting It In

With that free time gone, you'll have to work a little harder to make time for exercise. It's important to establish your exercise routine as soon as you can. If you're looking for a job, make exercise part of your daily routine—it will boost your mood, give you the energy to keep going, and build confidence.

If you're already working, look at your schedule and carve out some exercise time each day. Even if you start with just 10 minutes or split your workouts, you can build on that over time. Here are some additional resources to help you squeeze more exercise into your workday:

Less Moving, More Sitting

Walking from class to class or from party to party can burn calories. Sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day does not, which can quickly lead to weight gain and even back pain.

The Fix: Staying Fit at the Office

You have to get creative if you want to stay active at work. Set an alarm to go off every hour and stretch or do a few quick exercises. Other ideas include:

  • Avoid office junk food and eating out for lunch every day, which can quickly pack on the pounds.
  • Park further away or leave things in the car so you have a reason to get up.
  • Try an office staircase workout.
  • Walk, run, or bike to work.
  • Walk the stairs on your breaks or go for a walk during your lunch hour.
  • Work out during your lunch hour.

Changing Priorities

Graduating and going out into the "real world" can be overwhelming, which makes it hard to set your priorities. You may be tempted to skip exercise because you need all your energy to find a job or deal with the stress that arises during this big life change.

The Fix: Make Exercise a Priority

Remind yourself that exercise adds energy to your day rather than feeling that it's taking something away. Other benefits to remember

A Word From Verywell

Whether you ease into post-college life without worry or you find yourself mildly freaking out along the way, exercise is an important part of the transition process. Be aware that moving into the workforce means you have to get used to working on someone else's schedule, so take charge of the time you do have to fit in as much exercise as you can. Starting now will help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your stress at manageable levels.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."