We all know that regular physical activity is good for our health, but what you may not know is that, along with a balanced and nutritious diet, physical activity is the key to longevity. By definition, physical activity is any movement caused by muscle contraction that results in caloric expenditure – therefore, exercise is not just limited to athletes and gym goers but also includes everyday tasks such as cleaning your room, doing yard work, and walking to class. Besides playing a role in weight maintenance to avoid the freshmen 15, exercise offers a wide variety of health benefits that you surely do not want to miss out on, especially during your college years.
Regular physical activity is a key factor for preventing and reducing ones risk for major chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. The physical health benefits of exercise include, but are not limited to:
- Reduces inflammation
- Enhances cardiovascular function
- Reduces the risk of colon, prostate, and breast cancer
- Reduces the risk for chronic diseases
- Reduces blood pressure
- Increases bone density and strength, reducing the risk for Osteoporosis
- Increases muscle mass, strength, and endurance
- Increases insulin sensitivity, helping to prevent type 2 diabetes
- Increases flexibility and balance
- Improves immune function
- Weight maintenance
The benefits of exercise are not only limited to the aspects of physical health, but exercise can improve your mental health as well. College students, especially, can use this to their advantage because making exercise a part of your lifestyle can help to combat stress from school, work, sports and any other extracurricular activities. Highlighted below are some of the major health benefits that have a direct impact on students during their college years.
- Leads to greater self-confidence– exercise helps to create a positive body image, ultimately leading to greater self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Boosts brain function and improves memory- studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise helps to create new brain cells, helping to improve decision making and memory function while promoting a higher level of thinking.
- Increases energy levels- exercise stimulates hormones and chemicals that increase energy – schedule time into your planner to work out so that you feel energized and ready to take on the day.
- Acts as a stress reliever- studies have shown that exercise helps people manage and cope with physical and mental stress. If you’re overwhelmed with school work, take a break and hit the gym, go for a run, or try a fitness class to help clear your mind and relieve some stress.
- Improves mood- exercise produces feel good, happy chemicals called endorphins. Head to the gym if you’re feeling down and need a mood booster. These benefits can be felt after only 30 minutes of working out!
- Improves quality of sleep- Exercise promotes a faster and deeper sleep, ultimately improving sleep quality. Getting enough sleep, especially when in college, is a necessary component of leading a healthy lifestyle. However, don’t exercise too close to your bedtime because it may leave you feeling too energized!
In order to receive optimal health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends doing at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week, or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week, along with strength training at least two days per week. If you don’t already have exercise built into your daily schedule, college is the perfect time to build a healthy foundation and to start an exercise routine. Most colleges have their own gym where they allow students to access the fitness facilities with no extra charge, making it convenient and cost affordable for college students to workout. The health benefits of exercise are nothing to shy away from because working out will not only help to improve your quality of life right away, but it will benefit you for the many years to come.
Photo Credit: Laura Asbury, Paige Swint