Everyone knows that exercising can help achieve that hot girl summer body that we all desire. However, did you know how much it can help with achieving your academic goals? Exercising has been repeatedly proven to have immediate and long-lasting benefits for the brain, so incorporating it into our daily lives as students can be extremely beneficial.
If you’re a fan of running, you have probably experienced what is commonly known as the runner’s high. This immediate mood and energy boost can be linked to an increased release of hormones in the brain. When we work out, our body releases endorphins that relieve pain and stress, as well as neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which play an important role in regulating our mood. Along with the mood boost that results from this process, we also experience a shift in our ability to stay focused and maintain attention for at least two hours. So instead of paying $8 for that venti cup of some latte from Starbucks to stay alert during your study session, try going for a small walk or run for a healthy and cost-effective way to remain focused.
These benefits can be felt right after working out, but, what kinds of benefits can we see when we incorporate exercise into our daily routines? When we increase our cardiorespiratory function on a regular basis, our entire brain anatomy and function can be positively influenced. In her TED Talk, The Brain-Changing Benefits of Exercise, Wendy Suzuki, a professor of Neuroscience and Psychology and fitness instructor, showcased that when we participate in daily exercise, brand new links between brain cells can be formed within our hippocampus to increase its volume and improve our long term memory overall. She also highlights how it can result in long-lasting increases in the “good mood” neurotransmitters that release in our brain, which can be very beneficial to regulating our mental health, a key factor in our academic success.
Now you may be wondering, what is the minimum amount of physical activity needed in our everyday lives to experience these effects?
Suzuki recommends that we all get at least 30 minutes of daily sessions of aerobic exercise three to four times a week. As students, it can be difficult to maintain a balanced lifestyle with exercise as a regular part of it, but there are many convenient and cheap ways we can do so, right on campus.
One way is to simply walk more when you get the opportunity. The recent GRT strike helped a lot of us achieve this by forcing us to commute to campus by walking. To add on to the number of steps we get per day, we should also opt for the stairs more often, rather than taking the elevator.
Besides just walking, we can also join an intramural team or one of the many recreational sports clubs at the university. We should also take advantage of the facilities at CIF, which include three gyms and a fitness center open to all UW students.
Regardless of how we exercise, it is crucial for all of us to keep active in our daily lives as students. Physical activity can transform our brain health, help us to stay focused, retain information better, and keep a positive mood. Make sure to lift some weights along with your textbooks this term.