As summer quickly approaches, many of us jump on the treadmill to lose the extra weight from winter. There are even more valuable benefits to a regular work out regime than weight loss, though, especially as the end of the school year nears. Exercise is a mood-boosting, health-promoting, brain-gaining, all around fun activity. Once you find the right fit, you’ll feel even better than you look!
How does exercise boost your mood?
Working off the winter weight releases not just sweat, but endorphins too. Activated most commonly by stress or pain, these chemicals function as sedatives. These hormones are secreted from the brain and nervous system for multiple physiological functions. Endorphins have been said to have morphine-like effects, but they are formed naturally and not addictive. They transmit electrical signals that reduce your perception of pain, heighten your mood, regulate your metabolism, build your immune system, and release sex hormones.
When the body is introduced to feelings of pain or stress, such as exhaustion after a long run, it works to fight off those negative feelings and replace them with positive ones. This is why many people who routinely work out in the morning report that they feel brighter, faster, and more focused when they get to work.
How does exercise improve brain function?
Fitness is a great way to build new muscle, but it’s also linked to neurogenesis, the process in which nerve cells are generated in the brain. Although these cells are created during exercise, this isn’t an “If you build it, they will come” type of situation. Stimulating these new neurons is the only way that they become permanent additions to the brain and improve long-term memory. Just as your body needs exercise, so do these new cells. Use it or lose it!
Intense daily exercises also stimulate the regions of the brain responsible for focus, concentration, organization, and planning. Research has made it apparent that workouts can help to treat ADHD and prevent diseases like Alzheimer's. When you’re working toward your future in school, doesn’t it just make sense that your studies go hand in hand with exercise?
What are some specific workouts to try?
The three main types of exercise are strengthening, stretching, and cardiovascular. You can combine all three in one workout, and it’s wise to begin and end with stretching to warm up, cool down, and restore muscles. After your warm-up, you may choose cardio to work up a sweat, increase your heart rate, and kick-start your metabolism if you wish to lose weight. Then, build muscles by lifting weights or practicing calisthenic exercises (ones that don’t require any special equipment) like push-ups or sit-ups.
There are tons of fun ways to work out. Look into school clubs, extracurricular activities, elective courses, and free classes on campus, or try the following workouts on your own. A quick internet search can lead you to a tailored selection of exercise videos.
Recently, as it has become popularized in the western world, yoga has taken many spins. Most kinds of yoga focus on physical postures, while dedicating parts of the practice to meditation and breathing techniques. The ancient practice of yoga is intended to connect mind, body, and spirit. The word itself literally means “unity.” Research has shown that regular practitioners have mental resilience, stronger immune systems, higher metabolic rates, and a better sense of well-being.
New to yoga and looking for a guide? You can practice in the morning or at night by following a video tutorial. You may also look for a club or class provided by your school.
Cardio with friends:
Cardio is a broad term that includesjumping rope, cycling, dancing, swimming, and other activities that raise your heart rate. Running, the most common form of cardio, is an excellent workout that builds muscle, burns fat, and strengthens the heart and lungs. Extended workouts encourage the brain to release endorphins, which induce feelings of euphoria; some know this as a “runner’s high.”
Take a friend with you to help you keep pace and enjoy the scenery. It’s good to have someone to talk to, whether it’s to keep you occupied or share the joy. Running is also hard on the joints, so pair it with other exercises to strengthen nearby muscles. One good choice is yoga. Along with all of those other benefits, yoga can increase your range of motion and relieve joint pain.
If the weather outside is bright and sunny, or you don’t have access to a gym, you can always use your own body weight to work out. Don’t worry. Even if you live in a tiny dorm room, calisthenics can provide you with just as much of a workout as you could do in a gym if you put together a trialing circuit. Watch some videos by professionals like Massy Arias, download Pocket WOD for workouts, or ask to meet with a personal trainer at your local gym.
Go crazy with this killer workout by Beach Body, called Insanity. It doesn’t require a gym and takes about half an hour. Careful though. This workout program is not for the faint of heart. Its circuits will leave you sore, but weight loss and muscle gain results are practically guaranteed. You should always consult with your doctor before doing extreme workouts.
Incorporating fitness into your routine a few times a week can be fun. During the end of the school year, it’s a great way to battle stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression. Working out can also improve sleep, brain function, and mood. So, find an activity that allows you to work up a sweat and have a good time! Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated!