How exercise can help you throughout school

Koko Davies

During high school, I noticed that my grades were influenced by how much I was playing sports and exercising. I played both soccer and rugby throughout the four years. There were only three months in the year where I was not going to practice every day after school, November to February and in this period, I noticed a change in my grades. Most people would assume that playing on a sports team would take a toll on your productivity in school. That is not always the truth. I found it easier to get up in the morning and go to school, my grades were higher and it was easier to pay attention in class during soccer and rugby season.

The results I experienced were not a fluke. Studies have shown that regular exercise improves sleep quality and researchers at the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved with verbal memory and learning.

To test it out myself, I decided to do a test where I would monitor what time I fall asleep at each night. Over reading week I went to the gym Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. On the days, I went to the gym I fell asleep around midnight each night but on the Tuesday when I did not go to the gym I was awake until around 2:30 a.m. and I had a hard time waking up the next day. The other days I woke up around 9 a.m. and felt well rested.

Exercising and its benefits aren’t only for athletic people anyone can start living a healthier life if they choose to. There are many ways to exercise. Here are a few:

  • Try a new fitness class. The Mount Saint Vincent Fitness Center offers a variety of exercise classes such as yoga, cardio and Pilates. There are classes for beginners and those who are more experienced.
  • Most gyms offer training sessions for newcomers to learn how to exercise properly.
  • There are also free alternatives such as taking a walk in Point Pleasant Park.

According to the University of British Columbia study, improving memory requires 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise most days a week is the standard recommendation for healthy adults.

Many people struggle to find time to exercise. However, with strong time management skills, it is possible to find time to exercise most days. If you need help, MSVU Counselling Services  offer assistance with time management. Other useful ways to manage time are:

  1. Creating a schedule
  2. Having a routine and sticking to it
  3. Having someone holding you accountable (a gym partner & study partner)

Physical health and mental health have a connection. People with chronic physical conditions are at a risk of developing poor mental health and vice versa. Exercise has been proven to have many  mental health benefits  such as a profound positive impact on depression, anxiety and ADHD. Exercise also stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, growth of new blood vessels in the brain and the abundance and survival of the brain cells. The physical health benefits of exercise are huge as well. Some of the physical health benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke as well as preventing bone loss, reducing blood pressure and controlling weight.

All the mental and physical health benefits make exercise a positive influence on your every day and academic life, like it did for me.