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 Essentials for Healthy College Living: Fitness

While college students don’t have a lot of time to spare, staying fit helps academic success by training the mind, relieving stress, and maintaining overall health.

Earlier this month (October 2016), the Medicine Science Sports Exercise Journal published two studies showing improved fitness with better cognitive performance and that taking 10-15 minute breaks to get up and move in the middle of doing homework can increase academic performance:

-Increased VO2 max (the body’s proficiency in utilizing oxygen in energy production) in college-aged women promotes enhanced cognitive performance in attention, learning, working memory, and problem-solving activities, resulting in increased academic performance (Scott et al, 2016).

-Embedding an 8-10 minute HIIT workout during the school day improved cognitive and mental health among adolescents, showing the importance of taking planned recess breaks (Costigan et al, 2016).

Essential principles:

Don’t have a lot of time? Book it to and from class. Go for a quick 10-minute run before lunch. Take a 10-minute break from homework, do a HIIT workout, and see results!  

HIIT is the best! Push yourself for 1-2 minutes at the hardest pace you can. Then take it easier for 1-2 minutes,and repeat that for 30-40 minutes for an amazing workout. It helps you get stronger and improve your level of fitness in less time than just maintaining the same speed for twice as long.

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Circuit training is another great option. You can do 45 seconds of an exercise and rest for 15 seconds in-between. You can apply it to the HITT principle: doing an intense cardio move like mountain climbers or jump squats for 45 seconds and then for the next circuit do superman’s or chest flies on the ground. That way, you get both cardio and strength-training mixed in the same workouts.

Make little lifestyle changes. If it’s hard for you to find time to exercise during the day, walk fast from one class to another. This short boost in heart rate always helps! Take the stairs in place of the elevator whenever possible/feasible.

Find a time that works best for you and your schedule. Whether you’re a morning bird, an afternoon go-getter, or a night owl, finding the time that you prefer to work out will be the best option for you. I like to get up at 6:00 am to work out before class, or, depending on my schedule, in the afternoon after classes and before dinner, but others I know exercise late at night, which is perfect do them, but for me it would keep me up too late. Listen to your body. The best time is the time that you’ll actually do it.

Even though we college students don’t have a lot of money, we can still stay fit and active. Here are some ideas: 

On-Campus Gym: If your college or apartment complex provides an on-campus gym or other gym membership for free, take advantage of it! Put on your favorite music, read a book while on the bike, watch a show while running, read your textbook, etc. I remember when I took Anatomy and Physiology that I would take my textbook to the gym and read it while on the elliptical. It was nice to multitask and get my prep work done while also staying active and relieving stress. Or you can take that time as your break from homework and have YOU time. That can help you focus better when you work on your homework afterwards.

If you don’t have access to a gym, you can still get a great workout at home or outside:

At Home: You can use workout videos (I like Jillian Michael’s Boost Metabolism and No More Trouble Zones because she doesn’t use profanity, and with just a mat and light dumbbells, you can get a great overall circuit workout), a jump rope, the stairs in your apartment complex, dumbbells, a yoga mat, etc.!

No equipment needed: Do exercises using your own body weight, like push-ups, wall sits, squats, chair dips, planks, leg raises, punches, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, side kicks, etc!

Go outside! Go hiking. Run, walk, or jog around the campus or close-by areas. Go swimming. Take a bike ride. Breath in the fresh air and get some Vitamin D production by being out in the sun.

-Get involved: Play sports. Make a game out of it. Go to fitness classes. Zumba and kickboxing can really get your heart rate up, and yoga can help relieve stress and tension while also giving you an all-over strength workout.

Nutrition, Sleep, and Hydration: How we fuel our bodies can influence their ability to thrive throughout the day and eating well can help us maintain energy while staying active. Sleep is also imperative, as sleep is the time when our bodies heal, rest from the day’s work, and rebuild our muscle. Staying hydrated is vital as well since our bodies are made up of 70% water! (I will do another post focusing more on the nutrition and lifestyle factors of staying healthy at college.)

Find what works best for you! There are so many ways so stay fit and healthy.

What’s your favorite way to stay active?

References:
Costigan, S. A., Eather, N., Plontikoff, R. C., Hillman, C. H., & Lubans, D. R. (2016). High-Intensity Interval Training for Cognitive and Mental Health in Adolescents. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise, 48(10), 1985-1993. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000993
Scott, S. P., DE Souza, M. J., Koehler, K., Petkus, D. L., & Murray-Kolb, L. E. (2016). Cardiorespiratory Fitness Is Associated with Better Executive Function in Young Women. Medicine And Science In Sports And Exercise, 48(10), 1994-2002. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000974
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