Making the Most of Your Study Break: Get Some Exercise

Chances are you have been told by countless teachers and health professionals to exercise on a regular basis in order to stay healthy, but the academic benefits of exercising regularly cannot be stressed enough!  It’s important to keep in mind, especially during finals, that there are few better ways to spend a study break than by going to the gym, going for a run outside, or just doing a quick workout in your room.

But my body is stressed out enough as it is.  I‘m mentally and physically wiped after spending mornings and afternoons of classes.

Fight off that stress by exercising!   Studies have shown that exercise helps you relax and provides the following benefits:

  • Raises self-esteem
  • Wards off anxiety/depression
  • Reduces stress/improves ability to cope with stress
  • Improves sleep

But 45 minutes in the gym takes away from the valuable time I could be spending studying.

Scientific studies have shown exercise has a positive impact on learning and memory.  Next time you plan on locking yourself away in the library for 6 hours straight, remember that taking an hour break to work out will help you study more efficiently.

So how much should I be exercising each week? 

Every fitness magazine you pick up will give you a different statistic, but the Government website for The Center for Disease Control recommends a couple alternatives for appropriate amounts of aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activity. These may sound intimidating, but they are very manageable when broken down.

5 things to consider when building an exercise routine:

  • Be realistic.  Ask yourself “Will I really wake up early to go for a run, or am I more likely to be ready for a mid-afternoon workout?”  Make a schedule that you know you can stick to.  Consistency is key!
  • Be resourceful in figuring out how to track your workout progress.  Lots of fitness websites charge fees when you can track your routine just as effectively by keeping a journal or making an excel sheet.  Also, talk to staff at your school’s gym.  They may be able to recommend resources or give you some strategies for tracking your progress.
  • Stick to one type of workout each day: either muscle-strengthening or aerobic exercising, or occasionally mix it up and do a less intensive combination of both.
  • Set manageable goals.  They don’t have to be incredible feats of strength, they should just be benchmarks for improvement.  For example, if you run 2 miles in 22 minutes, you can set your goal to run 2 miles in 20 minutes after 2 weeks of working out, then leading up to 2 miles in 19 minutes after 4 weeks.
  • Give your muscles time to recover.  Be sure to work out different muscle groups (arms, core, legs) each day and give each group 48-72 hours of rest before working it out again.

If you prefer to work out in a group, then attend free group classes at your school’s gym, such as yoga, spinning, zumba or whatever else they offer.  These are services that you are already paying for so take advantage of them!

       In the comment section, share your workout strategies or tell us how exercise has helped you manage stress in college.