Starting at university will likely signify a big change in lifestyle and routine. You’ve swapped out your childhood room for a new place of residence and will soon be getting used to a new routine, cooking new things, and making new friends. All of this on top of your studies might seem overwhelming at first, but there are plenty of steps you can take to make the transition as easy as possible.
One of the most important things you should consider is how to stay active as a student during your time at university. It’s long been proven that maintaining a healthy lifestyle makes for a healthy mind, which will prove to be very important as a student. The physical and cognitive benefits of staying active could transform your university experience, so read on to explore why it’s important and how to stay active as a student.
Why is it important to stay active as a student?
Studies show that regular exercise and activity can have brilliant consequences for brain health. Moving your body for physical fitness has the ability to supercharge your cognitive fitness too, with short-term effects including increased reaction times and improved focus – goodbye brain fog! The stimulation of brain cells can ultimately do no harm, particularly for students who struggle with concentration over extended periods of time. There are manifold benefits to exercise in the long-term too, with studies showing those who move regularly are less likely to develop degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The chemical processes that occur as a result of physical activity contribute to the reduction of stress and anxious feelings. Exercise acts as a catalyst for the release of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, the higher levels of which can have a hugely positive effect on mood and emotions. Physical exertion reduces levels of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which are big culprits in the fostering of stress-related feelings.
Moreover, partaking in exercise could either mean some time alone or the chance to be with friends and teammates. Either one can prove beneficial when you’re feeling low.
Physical activity has been found to support and even grow the hippocampus; the area of the brain responsible for memory formation and retention. Aerobic exercise in particular promotes better circulation, with the increase of blood flow to the brain helping to both maintain current brain health and nurture the growth of new neurons. The ability to take on and recall a breadth of information will prove to be a much-desired skill for your studies, and should therefore encourage any student to stay fit and active.
How to stay active as a student
You may hear the word ‘exercise’ and worry that you have to spend the next three years of university enrolled in every sport and jogging to every lecture. Fear not, there are so many ways to stay healthy and active that don’t require hours of dedicated activity each day! Sure, there will be a huge range of sports clubs available for you to join at university, but there are also plenty of other ways to keep fit whilst balancing a busy academic and social schedule.
Walk as much as possible
Walking is a surprisingly underrated method of exercise. Studies show that walking and its subsequent benefits for the body and mind can be just as good, if not better, than running. A mere thirty minutes of brisk walking each day can help maintain a healthy weight, as well as improve cardiavascular health, strengthen the body and mitigate feelings of stress and depression. Long-term, those who walk often exhibit a reduced risk of developing cancer, joint problems, and various chronic diseases.
Whether you live on campus or further out, walking between lectures is an easy way to get moving. It could require some advanced planning to ensure you keep to your schedule, but at the end of the day, you’ll feel accomplished – and healthier!
Top tip: if walking is going to be your main form of exercise on a daily basis, try aiming for 10,000 steps each day. It’s a substantial yet achievable goal for those hoping to reap the full mental and physical benefits.
Utilise TV time
Lucky enough to have a TV in your student digs, or simply bored during the adverts on catch-up sites? You could use that time to practice your plank, or beat your consecutive push-up score. This is a particularly good way to get your body moving if it’s too cold and dark to go for a run or to the gym, or if you simply don’t feel like leaving the comfort of your bedroom. A short circuit involving star jumps and squats is a good way to get your heart pumping, or if you’re winding down for bed you could follow an online yoga video. There’s plenty of information available on adapting furniture and household items for a workout – try using a bag of oats as a weight, or your bed for tricep dips.
Join the university gym
Even if you’re a complete novice, joining the university gym is the perfect place to start on your path to fitness. Most universities, UWS included, offer comprehensive training on all the equipment, as well as weekly exercise classes such as aerobics or yoga. These are fun ways to socialise whilst keeping active, and could soon become a fun part of your routine.
Students on the UWS London campus have access to a free three day trial at the gym where you can receive training and trial the facilities, to see if it’s something you’d like to continue. Subsequent memberships are available at the discounted price of £165 per month, which includes access to various exercise classes, training sessions and, of course, the use of all gym facilities.
Join a society sport
University is renowned for being the place to find people with shared interests, no matter how niche. There will be a huge range of sports-based clubs and societies for you to choose from, from badminton and squash to long-distance running and fencing. These are great places to meet new people and hone your sporting abilities, whatever your skill level. With competitions available between teams across universities and even nationally, it can scratch that competitive itch, too.
Adapt your routine
If you struggle with finding motivation or discipline, you might feel a little worried about keeping up an active student lifestyle. The trick to solving this is to seamlessly integrate exercise in a way that doesn’t disrupt your routine, by forming little habits that become second nature. Take the stairs instead of the lift, and gather classmates to walk to lectures with instead of taking the bus. At home, walk up around the room as you wait for the microwave to reheat your dinner, or start doing lunges while brushing your teeth. Taking small steps to fitness is much more manageable than any drastic lifestyle change.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that your health comes first. Exercise is of course part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it shouldn’t become a source of stress and distraction for you. Being an active student does not have to mean hours of playing a sport you don’t like or walking to lectures in the hail, it can be any kind of movement that makes you feel good. After some practice, you will soon find a routine that balances study, friends, and exercise in a way that works for you.