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  • Mayowa Joseph

How do you stay fit at university?

Link between physical activity and academia

Research suggests that increasing physical activity and fitness can improve academic performance. The available evidence suggests that maths and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity. This is because these academic skills are dependent on the efficient and effective executive functioning which is linked to physical activity and fitness.

Without mandated time allocated to physical education at university, it can be easy to ignore this need in our lives. Incorporating single sessions of and/or long term participation in physical activity can improve cognitive performance and brain health so is worth investing in [1]. A study done on undergraduates aged between 20 - 22 years old at the University of Maribor showed that two to three hours of weekly physical activity was positively associated with a student’s academic success. Anything over four hours had no added contribution to the student’s success [2].

Exercise has been proven to improve concentration, research suggests that 20 minutes of exercise before studying helps with focus. When exercising more blood flows to the brain, which promotes cell growth especially in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for retaining information). Therefore exercising can be useful for remembering things learned in lecture and during study sessions [3].

Tips on incorporating exercise

1. Make it easy

In order to keep exercise as a permanent element in your student life it needs to fit in easily. One way to do this is to change your attitude towards exercise if you find it hard to incorporate it into your lifestyle. Think of exercise as one of your classes, scheduling it into your calendar so you won’t forget it.

2. Make it fun

Dependent on your personality, exercise could look different for you. A fun way to stay fit could be joining a university sports team which also has that social element to it which makes exercising feel like less of a chore. Another way to make exercise fun is to do it with friends. You could sign up to a gym with a friend which makes you more accountable to going to the gym.

3. Adapt your lifestyle

Some of the best forms of exercise are the ones you are unaware you are doing. You can adapt your lifestyle to become more active. For example, you can walk places that you would have usually driven to. You can take up a new hobby which requires more physical strength like roller skating or skateboarding. Or you could practice yoga and stretching whilst watching TV.

4. Affordability

As a student, you may not always have a lot of spare cash to spend on staying fit so there are a few cheap exercise options you can utilise to still reap all the benefits. YouTube home workouts are free and accessible over the internet. There are a range of videos on there which will get your heart racing. Some of my favourite fitness YouTube channels include @natachaoceane @krissycela @annabellehayes. Searching HIIT workouts on YouTube will get you a range of results for a quick workout which will get your heart racing at home with minimal equipment.

If you prefer something different there are loads of fitness apps which can be downloaded to your phone. If you are interested in running the Nike Run Club app may be of interest. You can track your runs, share it with friends and enter into competitions with people across the world. Also some parks have free exercise equipment, so trying a park workout may also have you in good stead.

Closing remarks

Finding little pockets of time to exercise and improve your physical wellbeing doesn’t only have a positive effect on your academic performance but also your overall wellbeing. It is a necessary component for a happy, healthy and active lifestyle. Make sure to use these tips to make exercise a regular part of your student life.





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