Whether you’re off to campus yourself or you’re sending a child for their first semester, you should fully understand the benefits of routine physical activity in college. Beyond the well-known positive feature of keeping body weight in check, exercise of many varieties can offer other gifts to students. Below, we’ll examine these wonderful abilities of the human body when it’s offered a bonus of regular, physical exertion.
Stressors and Terra Incognita
For many college students, being completely away from every familiar face is a new experience. Even the exciting new friends and activities they encounter are categorized as stressors—any experience that contributes to stress. As numerous studies have demonstrated over the past two decades, stress of any kind is linked to a number of issues that can develop later in life.
These include heart failure, gastrointestinal disorders, and imbalances of melatonin and serotonin production within the human body, which leads to mood disorders and issues with healthy sleeping patterns. Exercise reduces the impacts of stress—whether it’s a big date or a big term paper that’s on your mind. Regular physical exertion of as little as 20 minutes a day will help sort out what’s weighing on your mind and reduce stress-related elevation of blood-pressure, insomnia, and appetite disturbances.
Along with the many challenges and changes that accompany a rigorous college schedule, students may experience shifts in the stability of their moods. Depression or changes in emotional stress response are common among students. However, remember that 20-minute stint of exercise we mentioned? It will help to balance and improve moods as much or more than the most popular anti-depressant medication.
Staying in shape benefits levels of self-esteem and positive body image. Plus, it boosts immunity to common communicable sickness, such as colds and the flu, because the human lymphatic system circulates fluid via physical activity, using the pumping action of movement to flush out old white blood cells and toxins.
Memory, Brain Development, and Intellectual Performance
Trotting to class instead of driving won’t just save you money on a campus parking space, it could also aid you in your ability to focus during classes. Several current studies show that a little physical activity immediately preceding class time improves focus, retention of information, and enhances calmness. Regular physical activity is also linked to the brain’s ability to create new neurons and other essential cells. Exercise enables the formation of increasingly complex connections between neurons within the white matter of the brain, which can’t hurt your grade in that 9:30 a.m. calculus class.
But did you know it also helps your body maintain its memory warehouse, the hippocampus—which is a tiny part of our brains responsible for storing short-term memory and translating it into our neural net? It can actually atrophy over time if you don’t exercise, which makes scientists curious about its role in geriatric dementia.
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Many students gain weight during their first year in college. This is due to the cessation of group sports they commonly participated in during high school and a slew of unhealthy eating habits. But you can forestall this during college, even by choosing to walk to class, to the pizza parlor, or your study group. Routine physical activity in college is easier than ever to achieve, and its benefits are too widespread to ignore.