By Alexia Baptista and Shauna Pearce
Kin Korner is a health and wellness column, written by students from Kinesiology 360: Concepts in Health Promotion and Health Education.
It’s that time again, the point in a semester where all students are busy studying for finals, working on group projects, or attempting to produce a well written paper within a 24-hour period, the night before it’s due. With all this going on, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves saying things like, “I’m really stressed out right now,” or “I think I might be coming down with something.” We’ve all been there.
According to a study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, roughly one-third of students experience heightened levels of stress during the final exam season, and less than 50 per cent of students participate in the recommended dose of daily physical activity. Knowing this, it is imperative that we pay attention to not only our mental health, but our physical health as well. Although they are different areas of wellness, they are definitely related to one another, so why not tackle both at the same time?
Stress is inevitable when it comes to being a university student. But don’t fret, there is hope!
A good place to begin is with some exercising basics. According to the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists, you should engage in 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more, three or four days a week.
Aerobic exercise can be defined as any physical activity that someone is engaged in, using large muscle groups for 10 minutes or more at the same pace. Some examples include running, walking, or cycling. These types of exercises have proven to be excellent for your health, because they directly affect your heart. At 150 minutes a week, a number of health benefits are observed, including healthy blood cholesterol levels, healthy blood pressure levels, as well as a lower resting heart rate. While 150 minutes is the goal, the more aerobic exercise you engage in, the better.
Coincidentally, stress is also something that, through hormone release, affects your cardiovascular system. Stressors, such as the ones you face on a day-to-day basis, have the power to increase your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels, which are all the same factors helped by cardiovascular exercise.
As for psychological benefits, exercise has been shown to improve cognitive functioning, as well as help combat mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. A study from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that university students who participated in the most exercise reported being less stressed, and had lower levels of depressive symptoms. Researchers from Southern Illinois University also found that exercise increased positive emotion, unity of mind and body, self-esteem, problem-focused coping, and health behaviour regulation in students who participated in regular exercise three or four times a week. All students agreed that exercise, whether it be aerobic, weight lifting, or yoga, helped with reducing stress, which in turn helped their overall mood and well-being.
Regular physical activity can also help with sleeping patterns and your social relationships as well. In other words, you will most likely become happier, healthier, and more confident.
Living holistically is essential to ensure you have a healthy mind and body connection, and to ease yourself through life’s stressors. Especially when you’re a student during crunch time, it is essential to maintain this balance, to ensure you don’t lose your marbles before the semester is done.
Do yourselves a favour, and make time in your busy life to run around the track, or walk your dog for 30 minutes, because it’s more valuable to your health than you think.