This March and April, the wellbeing spotlight is on Be Active. We all know that being active is physically good for us, but it isn’t just about keeping fit! It’s good for your overall wellbeing in lots of ways, especially as a student when you’re juggling lots of commitments and deadlines.
Here are just some of the ways:
- Calm you and lift your mood. When you exercise, your brain chemistry changes through the release of endorphins (sometimes called ‘feel good’ hormones), which can have the lovely effect of calming anxiety. Simply taking time out to exercise can give you space to think things over and help your mind feel calmer.
- Clearer thinking. Some people find that exercise helps to break up racing thoughts. As your body tires so does your mind, leaving you calmer and better able to think clearly.
- Increased self-esteem. When you start to see your fitness levels increase and your body improve, it can give your self-esteem a big boost. The sense of achievement you get from learning new skills and achieving your goals can also help you feel better about yourself and help you to take on life’s challenges.
- Help you deal with stress and even reduce stress levels. This one could be of particular interest, especially during those pinch points in your studies – assignment deadlines, exams or worse when they’re at the same time. Taking time to exercise during these times might seem counter-productive (after all you could be reading another couple of pages…) but it really isn’t!
- Exercise itself is a stressor, i.e. something that makes your body produce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Making yourself experience stress on purpose by doing regular exercise forces your body to build up resilience over time. People often experience reductions in feelings of stress and tension as a result of exercise, as your body is better able to control cortisol levels.
- Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.
- Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand.
All sounds good but you know that exercise isn’t really your thing? Or, you just don’t have the time? Being active doesn’t have to be running a marathon; it doesn’t even have to be running or involve the gym!
Find something that fits in with your lifestyle and that you enjoy. Instead of the getting on the bus to uni, try a brisk walk in the spring sunshine, take the stairs instead of the lift, challenge yourself to leave your desk or workplace for a lunchtime walk. Lots of little changes can help you get out of a sedentary rut. You’ll be regularly active before you know it!
And if you’re ready to try something a bit more? Great, but remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about your current fitness level, or your supposed lack of willpower. Have realistic expectations and enjoy whatever you’re doing. Take notice of the changes in your mood, wellbeing and body!
Looking for inspiration? There’s lots of information and advice on the NHS website to help you get active:
- Find activity ideas in Get fit for free
- Start running with our Couch to 5K podcasts
- Find out how to start running, swimming, cycling and dancing
Ready for a challenge? Think about the Manchester 10K by joining the Purple Wave.