Staying healthy on UW campus


The transition from high school to your first year of university can be overwhelming. Sometimes with all the new academic and social responsibilities, you lose track of things like staying active, eating well, sleeping, or even visiting the doctor when you get sick. Luckily, campus has various supports to help make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Most of these supports are things you’re already paying for in your student fees, so you might as well make use of them!

Healthy eating

Eating healthy is an important part of keeping up your physical health, but it can sometimes be tricky to know what that means. A good source for nutrition information is Canada’s Food Guide, and Campus Wellness also has a page of student-specific nutrition information. A few key tips include trying to eat a variety of foods, eating three meals a day including breakfast, and keeping healthy snacks available. It’s also recommended that you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and avoid highly processed foods and sugary drinks. If you’re having trouble with healthy eating, it’s important to identify what barriers you’re facing. If you feel you need more support, you can access registered dietitians through Health Services (see below). For student athletes, UW Athletics has a nutrition guidebook that gives more specific advice, including what you should eat before and after workouts.

For more tips, see the Canada Food Guide, the UW Athletics Nutrition Guidebook, or the Campus Wellness website.


Sleep is an often overlooked factor in your health and academic performance. While it may be tempting to pull “all-nighters,” getting enough sleep is actually the best thing you can do before your exam because it improves your concentration and memory. On average, young adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Try to make sleep a priority! One of the most important things you can do is have a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at similar times, every day of the week. Other things you can try include limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake (especially close to bed time), having a light snack before sleeping, so you aren’t trying to sleep hungry, and creating a cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable place to sleep.

For more tips, see the sleep tips on the Campus Wellness website.

Staying active: something for everyone

Did you know that UW has a vibrant and varied athletics and recreation program? The department tries to make sure that there is something for everyone. Donna Rheams, senior manager of wellness and active living for UW Athletics and Recreation, recommends that students find a physical activity they really enjoy doing: “Finding something that you really enjoy can help you be better in all other aspects of your life.” This includes your physical health, but also habit building, and social connection. Some activities you could try include weightlifting, salsa dancing, fencing, and kendo. Rheams says it’s important not to give up if you don’t like the first activity you try. “It’s a great space to meet people with similar interests, and build a network on this campus outside of the academic world.”

Included in your student fees is access to athletic facilities at the PAC and the CIF, including the gyms, and open rec times at the field houses, basketball courts, pool, and skating rink.

For an additional fee, you can access the following services: intramural teams; clubs, including golf, archery, martial arts and dance; fitness classes; instructional programs; and rock climbing. The fees for clubs start at $5/term, and most are $50/term or less. A fitness class pass costs $60/term, but it gives you access to as many classes as you want to attend over the course of the term.

Take the opportunity to try something new! Rheams says that “[t]hese spaces offer a safe place to build resiliency, a safe place to fail at something and have it not matter whatsoever.”

The best ways to stay informed about UW athletics are to visit the Athletics website or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter (@wloowarriors).

Health supports on and around campus:

If a medical issue comes up, you can get support from Health Services on campus, which is available to all students, faculty, and eligible family members. The office is located across the river from the SLC, near St. Jerome’s, and is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can call and book an appointment with a doctor or nurse to discuss physical, mental, and sexual health. They accept all provincial health plans, as well as the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) for international students. Walk-in appointments are currently unavailable at Health Services.

For walk-in appointments, there is the Waterloo Walk-In Clinic located at 170 University Ave., in the University Plaza, which operates from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m to 3 p.m on weekends. The walk-in clinic can handle minor medical issues, as well as vaccines, travel advice, and specialist referrals. For emergencies, you should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room, which is Grand River Hospital at 835 King St. W. in Kitchener. St. Mary’s General Hospital is another emergency option that is located at 911 Queen’s Blvd. in Kitchener.

Supporting sexual health:

Health Services’ sexual health support includes access to STI testing, birth control, emergency contraception and pregnancy tests. There are also services directed to LGBTQ+ patients, including gender affirming care. For those impacted by sexual violence, there is the on-campus Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO), which provides support and guidance, referrals, and discussions about the options available after an attack. The SVPRO directors have offices in the commissary building at 200 Ring Road near DC. The office uses approaches that are survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and intersectional. In a video explaining the service, Amanda Cook, director of SVPRO says, “Survivors need to be heard. They need to know that it wasn’t their fault. They need to feel believed. They need to feel that they matter.”

To learn more, visit the Campus Wellness website or follow them on Instagram @uwaterloowellness. To book an appointment with Health Services, call 519-888-4096. To contact SVPRO, email

Health insurance: dentists, optometrists and mental health professionals

For health services not covered by provincial insurance, WUSA provides extended health and dental coverage. If you’re a full-time student, you’re automatically enrolled in the Health and Dental Plan, though you can choose to opt out. This coverage includes prescription drugs, health practitioners including psychologists and physiotherapists, vision and dental care, and travel health coverage. While the coverage can be applied to any licensed professionals, you can access many of these services right on campus, including seeing the campus dentist on the lowest level of the SLC, or visiting the UW optometry clinic at 200 Columbia St. W.

Visit WUSA’s website to learn more!

Being informed and proactive is the best way to stay on top of your health as you transition to university life. Remember, if you need help, there are services and people available for you.