Fit activity into your routine this semester!

Posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Written by Lindzie O'Reilly

Students engage in many activities that demand their time and attention – from lectures, to clubs and social events. Sometimes it can be hard enough to find time to feed yourself and get in a decent amount of sleep, never mind exercise.

Many students experience a drop in their activity level when they graduate from high school and begin university. Common barriers to activity include a lack of time, money, motivation, interest, and confidence. University students who do not engage in physical activity on a regular basis may continue to struggle to include activity post-graduation.
We are constantly bombarded with media messages emphasizing the long term health benefits of physical activity. When you have 3 exams coming up in the next week, however, it can be pretty hard to convince yourself to hit the gym in an effort to prevent a heart attack several decades down the road. Instead, I’d like to offer some shorter-term benefits of physical activity, which can:

  • improve mental wellbeing – activity can relieve symptoms of depression, can improve mood, and can decrease stress and anxiety.
  • improve academic performance – activity improves concentration and keeps your judgement skills sharp.
  • improve sleep – increasing your activity level during the day can decrease restlessness at night.
  • strengthen your immune system.
  • improve co-ordination, balance, posture and flexibility – all of these benefits help decrease your risk of injury and can improve back and shoulder pain common among students who sit for long periods of time.

Based on the above benefits, make it a goal to include physical activity in your routine this semester. When setting your goal, be sure to:

  1. Choose activities you enjoy - it's very difficult to stick to a routine and you are unlikely to reap benefits such as improved mood if you don't enjoy the activity you are engaging in!
  2. Make your goal realistic - if you haven't been active in a while, start slow and build up. If an hour of activity isn't realistic, try walking in 10 minute intervals during the day. Even when you feel overwhelmed and short on time, a quick burst of activity can actually improve concentration and focus when you return to studying, making you more efficient.
  3. Schedule activity at realistic times - if you know that you always end class at 4pm feeling beat, it's unlikely that you will be able to push through a workout at that time. Find time when you know you will have energy.
  4. Think about your own personal barriers. If you don't enjoy exercising alone, find a buddy. If you're unsure how to use machines at the gym and would like to learn, consider completing a couple sessions with a personal trainer to ensure your workout is efficient, effective and safe.
  5. Take advantage of every opportunity to be active - take the stairs rather than the elevator or get off the bus one stop early.

There are tons of great opportunities to be active on campus. Take advantage of FREE activities such as drop in swimming or skating. If you are looking for something more structured, check out the many great options offered through the Athletic Centre on campus.

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