6 Reasons To Exercise Your Student Body

February 2, 2016

When I was applying to colleges 20 (gasp) years ago, I wanted to do a sport AND study architecture. Most department heads and coaches told me I was crazy to want to do this as doing both would be too demanding.  Call me crazy, but I found a college that allowed me to learn and participate in athletics, and while I worked hard at both, I will never forget being called “lazy” by one of my architecture instructors. Oddly I was called lazy, because I would leave my desk to go for a run, or go to practice. Apparently I didn’t work hard enough on my projects, but I couldn’t help myself. Moving and exercise were part of my life and I FELT better AND was a better student when I did those things.  While it is a challenge to maintain a healthy lifestyle while in school, the benefits can not be overlooked.  I write this article as a reminder to students to put their wellness parallel with the importance of their studies and want to  share 6 reasons why you should exercise your student body!

1. Exercise makes your brain more alert for better learning! Ever wonder why you feel better and your brain is more awake after going for a walk after being inside all day? While it is not completely clear why this is, one idea is increased blood flow and increased oxygen to the brain. Also, the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory is highly active during exercise. Regardless of why, it is been noted that students that exercised performed better on tests than their peers who did not. For further details check out this article by Justin Rhodes.

2. Exercise = Stress Reduction: Life can be stressful. When you add a full-time course load into the mix, stress levels go through the roof. Add the pressure to complete assignments on time and perform well on exams and life is almost unbearable. You might want to burst! Fitness to the rescue! What should you do with that pent up anxiety and angst? USE IT to your advantage. According to the Association for Anxiety and Depression “Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.” The endorphins produced by exercise help to elevate our mood, but also calm our minds. Whether you go for a walk, run, do some gentle stretches or breath mindfully for 5 minutes you can reduce stress levels. Here is another resource about exercise and stress reduction.

3. More ENERGY! When the body gets stressed it begins to feel tired. Oddly our sleep suffers in times of stress and then we look to things like sugar and caffeine to keep us going. Exercise is our natural stimulant and it comes back to the endorphins produced and the flow of oxygen throughout our body. Also, the more you exercise the more fit you become. Your overall stamina and endurance to do daily things like chores and errands is easier because your system is more efficient, and as a result you have more energy to do more things!

4. Combat potential long term chronic pain from sitting and computer use: Depending on what age you are when you are in school, your body be 20 or it could be 50. No matter what age your body is, constant sitting and computer work can take a toll on the body and sitting now has a variety of health risks linked to it. Low back pain, neck and shoulder tension as well as headaches can all be attributed to long hours in the seated position. Making time to get up during the day to move is imperative to making sure that you don’t begin to suffer from long term ailments associated with keeping your body stationary. Our bodies were designed to move and we need to move them constantly throughout the day. Check out these simple at your desk stretches you can do on the hour to help your body move more.

5. Battle Depression and Improve Mood: It is estimated the over 350 million people suffer from some form of depression. When you are depressed the things you typically care about don’t seem as important. In school this could lead a student to get behind on assignments, not study for a big exam, or possibly not even care if they eventually complete their degree. How does exercise do this? According to www.health.Harvard.edu it is noted that “exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.” Make time to move, do yoga, walk with a friend or join a team. The worries of your day will diminish by the end of your activity. Promise!

6. Better Sleep? While current research debates if a regular exercise program will help you sleep better, personal information and feedback from clients has told me that this is a possibility. Fatiguing your body and your brain with exercise can lead to better sleep, and better sleep means a more rested student. When you are more rested your brain can function at it’s peak, your overall energy is more steady, and your body can repair itself on a variety of levels. Curious about other benefits of sleep? Read more!

Being in school is a tricky time in life, however, once you graduate you are still faced with responsibilities that seem to take precedent over fitness and exercise. Even though I am a Personal Trainer, I struggle with stepping away from work just like everyone else! To make this easier I set dates with friends to run, workout, or do yoga. I have joined clubs and teams, and I make plans out in the future for hikes and fun outdoor adventures. I also try and sign up for races to help hold myself accountable to the day to day training. No matter what level you are at, there are ways to move AND have fun doing it! Here are some simple fitness videos from the Portland TEAM Fitness trainers in honor of Heart Month. You do them with a friend, but you don’t need access to a gym or any equipment. Good luck, and have fun!