January 07, 2016

Exercise for your academics

What are two new years resolutions many students make? To exercise more and do better in class. Sharon Stearns, student learning advisor with the Student Success Centre, shares advice for how to accomplish both goals this semester.

While the beginning of the term can be chaotic as you adjust to new classes, professors, and expectations, it is also the best time to plan your months ahead. A bit of time devoted to organization now will help you to stay on top of your academic goals and ensure that you make time for other life priorities like sleep, socializing, and exercise throughout the term. We all know that exercise is a healthy habit to keep, but it often is the first sacrifice we make as the semester gets busy — here are some reasons (and ways) to make sure it’s a commitment you keep!

Our understanding of the effects of exercise has changed over time, beginning from the ancient Greek notion of the athlete scholar to the modern separation of mind and body. Yet, we know today that brain growth and development is promoted by aerobic exercise — the exercise that gets your heart pumping and your blood circulating. In fact, exercise improves many of the intellectual skills students put to use on a daily basis:
  • working memory;
  • self-regulation and attention;
  • mental flexibility;
  • information processing, storage, and retrieval;
  • balanced neurotransmitters; and
  • calming the brain’s stress response. 
In other words, exercise generally helps our brains work better!

It’s all too easy to slip into a sedentary lifestyle when sitting in classes or studying all day, let alone having to battle cold, dark winter days. But, there are many easy ways you can incorporate aerobic exercise into your daily life on campus and set yourself up for academic success.

Take a walk!
Walking with intention or at a brisk pace can help get your heart rate up, even if it is just walking to get to another class. On a longer break in your schedule, consider walking the 3km loop around North Campus (87th Ave. - 116 St. -  Saskatchewan Dr. - 111 St. - 87th Ave.). If you want to get in those steps, Wellness Walks happen throughout the week and begin at the InfoLink desk in either SUB or CAB. These 30 minute walks can occur within buildings or take place outside, and you can drop-in as often as you like.

Climb the stairs
Buildings around campus have hidden staircases that you might not have noticed. Spend a few minutes finding these stairs and consider incorporating them into your daily route to classes. For example, you can climb five flights of stairs (or 112 steps) in the Cameron Library on your way to a study session. If you are feeling really ambitious, like Tim Young, you can run up and down the 15 flights of stairs (350 steps) in the Tory Building.

Finish a section of studying, do a burst of exercise.
Rather than sitting for hours straight while you are studying, try incorporating short bursts of exercise to get you moving. For instance, when you finish reading a chapter or complete a set of questions, get up and do 10 burpees, pushups, or situps. It breaks up the amount of time you spend sitting, gets your heart rate going, and helps maximize your recall of what you've studied.

Regardless of how you do it, plan to incorporate some activity into your routines this term, getting your body — and brain — in gear!