Looking after your physical health at uni
Help and advice
Staying healthy and physically fit boosts your mood, concentration and energy. And can help you keep on track with your studies.
When you start uni
If you move to a new city, you should register with local medical services when you arrive to make sure you can get treatment when you need it.
Find your nearest pharmacist, GP surgery and other services on the NHS website. Once registered, make sure your doctor knows about any prescriptions you need. Register with a local pharmacy and confirm your prescription will come through on time.
You can see a GP for emergency treatment for up to 14 days if you're unregistered.
Who to speak to when you feel unwell
Most of the time, you'll recover from colds, flu and similar illnesses on your own. Give your body time to get better by resting at home, drinking plenty of water and eating healthily.
But if you get sick, below is a list of people to reach out to. If you aren't sure who to speak to for medical help, phone NHS 111 and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Pharmacists can issue prescriptions, over the counter medicines, and help with a range of health issues and minor illnesses. Your pharmacist can also help with emergency contraception and incontinence supplies.
You don’t need an appointment to speak to a pharmacist. Pharmacies also have consultation rooms if you’d like to speak to someone in private.
You should speak to a pharmacist if you have:
- a sore throat or cough
- a cold or flu
- hay fever
- stomach complaints or diarrhoea
- a skin condition or rash
- aches and pains
Your GP can diagnose conditions, prescribe medications, help you manage chronic issues, and refer you to other medical services.
Speak to your dentist if you have a toothache. If you aren’t registered with a dentist, call 111 for details about emergency dental services in your area.
Walk-in centres offer medical advice and treatment without an appointment for conditions and injuries that don’t need A&E, or if you can’t wait for an appointment with your GP. Find your nearest urgent care centre at the NHS website.
Walk-in centres can help with issues like:
- skin concerns including cuts, rashes and minor burns
- broken bones
- bites and stings
The Minor Injuries Unit treats non-urgent health issues.
You should go to minor injuries if you have:
- a broken bone
- an infection
- minor burns
- a minor head injury
- back pain
The Accident and Emergency (A&E) department is for emergency and life-threatening situations. A&E is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
During your studies
Your health is linked to a range of factors. Being healthy doesn't mean cutting out things like desserts or rest days. Looking after yourself means balancing your lifestyle and listening to your body.
Keep a first aid kit
Make a small first aid kit to keep at home. Include plasters, pain killers, allergy medication, tweezers, antibacterial wipes and cold relief. If you're ill or have a minor injury, it's better to be prepared at home than have to go to the shop.
Choosing the right foods will help boost your mood and energy, and help you sleep. Start the day with a good breakfast, eat regularly throughout the day, and opt for healthy snacks. Try to include fruit, vegetables, protein and fibre to build a balanced diet.
Find out where to eat on campus
Food hygiene is important when you're cooking at home. This means storing, preparing and cooking your food safely. Wash your hands regularly and before you cook. Use protective equipment like oven mitts and an apron when dealing with hot food. Make sure that food is fully defrosted before you use it and cooked thoroughly.
You should only reheating leftovers once.
Keep your food safe by storing food in sealed containers. Perishables like milk, meat, sandwiches and ready meals should be kept in the fridge. Don't overload your fridge and keep raw food separate, with cooked food stored above raw foods like meats.
Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is important – even mild dehydration can impact your concentration. Make sure you drink at least 2 litres of water a day to stay hydrated. You can take a water bottle to lectures and refill it on campus too.
Monitor your alcohol
If you drink alcohol, keep track of how much and what you drink. Drink water in between your alcoholic drinks to minimise hangovers. Stick to your limits and don't leave your drinks unattended. Buy your own drinks or go to the bar with anyone who offers to buy you one.
Physical activity supports your fitness, wellbeing and mental health. You can exercise socially or on your own. Consider joining a society or sports club for regular activity with new people – or going out for walks for some peace and quiet and to explore the local area.
If you start doing a lot more (or a lot less) exercise, remember to change your diet accordingly. If you need any help or advice with your exercise or nutrition, get in touch with our Health and Fitness team.
A good sleep routine has a huge impact on your health and wellbeing. Sleeping helps your body recharge, rest and heal. Getting at least 8 hours sleep means you'll be refreshed and prepared each day for your studies.
Tips for sleeping well:
- control your bedroom – decide whether you want to listen to music, soothing sounds or silence, how much light you need to sleep, and how warm you want to be
- build an evening routine – a lot of people enjoy calm activities like reading or meditating before going to bed
- turn your phone off or put it on silent and out of reach overnight
- exercise during the day so your body is tired
- avoid caffeine and food soon before bed
Take a break
University life can be exhausting. Overworking can have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing and productivity, and could lead to burn out or getting ill. Look after yourself and have a break when you need it.
If you have coronavirus symptoms
If you, someone you live with, or someone you have been in close contact with shows coronavirus symptoms, you should stay home.
Main coronavirus symptoms:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- changes to your sense of smell or taste, including loss
Stay at home and use the 111 online coronavirus service for advice. Keep others safe by not visiting places like your GP, pharmacy or local hospital.
Resources and helplines
Organisations that can support your physical health include:
Find out about the guidance and support you'll get if you need a helping hand with academic life – or life in general – when you study with us at Portsmouth.
Read up on topics including self-care, sport and exercise, mental wellbeing.