Warning: Being A PhD Student Could Be Hazardous to Your Health

It’s not uncommon for a person to put 20 pounds during the first year of college. I know I did, but back then I was working out big time and since I wanted to play football I welcomed the added weight I put on. But I am not 19 years old anymore, and I am not attempting to play a collegiate sport. I am approaching 50 and now that I am taking classes I wonder how the stress and physical demands of being a PhD student are affecting my health.

As a doctoral student I find myself constantly on the go. After working all day I jump in my vehicle and drive about an hour and fifteen minutes to class two nights a week. Normally it doesn’t take that long to reach my destination, but the bad weather, road construction and five o’clock traffic all seem to have lengthened the amount of time I spend on the road. Sometimes it feels like I am living in my truck, and there is quite a bit of evidence to show that I have practically taken up residence there; empty water bottles and fast food wrappers are everywhere. My truck is so dirty that someone looking in might think I need to be committed to a hospital. No I am not psychotic, I just eat while I’m driving sometimes.

If maintaining a healthy diet is a problem then working out on a regular basis is near impossible. I will give myself some credit on this one though. I may not be able to get to the gym that often so I try to do push-ups every day. I use various hand positions and sometimes I do them with my feet up on an exercise ball.  But while my core strength is good I feel like my cardio is lacking. I miss the daily runs I used to get in. It’s just been downright too cold and snowy to get out there lately and some days I find it difficult to get out from under the covers. Other times I stay in because I need to prepare for class, type a paper or do some research. There is no excuse for not exercising, but I think I would be a little more physically active if I wasn’t taking classes.

And then there is the stress of being a doctoral student. Will I get that paper done on time? Did I catch any and all typos? Will I pass my comps? Will my dissertation proposal be acceptable? The list goes on and on. The physical demands of a PhD program are incredible, but it’s the stress that will do you in.

Even a person’s eyes can be affected while he is in school, lately I have noticed that mine appear to be a little red; they also burn a little sometimes. My doctor says it’s from eye strain, possibly from spending my mornings, days and nights in a stationary position looking at a computer screen.

Despite my concerns about my health my doctor says I am doing well. Still I can’t help but wonder if I would be in better shape if I wasn’t a student and didn’t have to endure the demands of a PhD program.


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