Every college student has heard of the dangerous \”Freshman 15,\” and in some cases, some students even worry about blazing the trail to the \”Freshman 30.\” It would be nice to say after your first year in college, the fight to maintain a healthy lifestyle only gets easier, but it is only the beginning of the battle. Research has shown an increased level of physical activity is the key component that helps students who are looking to take on the challenge. It does not matter how fitness is defined – what matters is whether a student can apply fitness into a busy life. As many students adapt to the college routine, one of the biggest challenges is keeping in shape while balancing everyday activities, but the positive impact of fitness on students\’ life is undeniable, affecting both physical and mental health.[desktop]
\”Build it around enjoyment rather than a workout if that\’s what motivates you, because any type of movement is better than none at all,\” said Jonathan Kermiet of Health Education Services at the Olin Health Center. According to Kermiet, studies from 2000 show fitness affects numerous aspects of a student\’s life. Fitness can help relax muscles, and, although it cannot be eliminated completely, it tends to help manage stress. When this happens, it also is easier to fall asleep at night. Feel a cold or the flu coming on? Any type of aerobic exercise speeds up the heart, pumps larger quantities of blood, makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These side effects will help increase the body\’s virus-killing cells, preventing the flu and cold.
[kermiet1]It is also evident that working out regularly encourages students to leave their dorm rooms. Students are less likely to spend time on the Internet and focus on various bad relationships, both of which can contribute to stressful situations. Some of the short-term effects that people will notice right away are an increase in energy, better concentration, a higher metabolism (leading to weight loss), higher self-esteem and a decrease in depression. These can serve as motivators to work out on a regular basis.
Another motivator that many students rely on is working out with a friend or partner. \”At first, I thought it was kind of pointless to go with a friend to work out because technically, you are not doing the same thing. But then I realized I tend to stay longer and work out harder because I have to wait until they\’re done before I leave,\” said psychology freshman Courtney Loughman.
Loughman brings up an interesting point: a lot of men and women workout in pairs. Whether they serve as a lifting buddy, or just someone to chat with, they are enabling the other to do some sort of physical activity. \”If you need to go to a class or with a friend to get it done, that\’s perfectly normal. Focus on the benefits. Know what you like to do,\” said Kermiet.
But what if you\’re not an athlete? How would you fare in physical activities? It all depends on personal goals and enjoyable activities. If you aren\’t happy with what you\’re doing, you\’re not going to work as hard as you can to reach your full potential. \”I like to play racquetball and disc golf with my friends, and in the process, I don\’t even think about the fact that I am getting a workout,\” said Mark Tornga, a supply chain management sophomore. Those who are looking for beneficial exercise also should stick with what they like. People who love to swim should not force themselves to run five miles. In the end, it could become discouraging to continue with the routine, and results could fail to appear. [fit2]
Something to be wary of while working out is the risk of over-exercising, a danger that many workout fiends don\’t consider. According to the Office of Health Education (OHE) at the University of Pennsylvania, over-exercising, or compulsive exercising or obligatory exercising, is when an individual engages in strenuous physical activity to the point that it is unsafe or unhealthy. Kermiet noted that in a lot of cases, people who have body issues over-exercise as their way of trying to achieve unrealistic perfection. This phenomenon is also common with men who rapidly start lifting weights. Compulsive exercising is risky in many ways. Emotionally, people become socially withdrawn, while physically, it can lead to insomnia, depression, fatigue and dehydration. The OHE also claims that additional side effects may include muscular and skeletal injuries, shin splints, bone fractures, arthritis or damage to cartilage and ligaments. Women can even reach the point to where they are no longer able to menstruate, a condition called amenorrhea. \”Know your body. Be aware of aches and pains and know when to stop,\” said Kermiet.
Sometimes, people don\’t realize there are many different ways to tie fitness into a busy schedule. \”I already find myself more active than in high school. Instead of driving to school and sitting all day, I ride my bike everywhere and walk a lot more,\” said Tornga. He also likes to do push-ups, pull-ups and stretching in his own room because it is more convenient than walking to the gym. Other ways to squeeze fitness into a daily routine include climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator, rocking out to your favorite music (make sure the door\’s closed!) or parking further away from a destination. The bottom line? Any kind of movement increases activity and encourages healthy habits to form.
One common myth that needs debunking is that women are less likely to work out than men. Not true! At Atlas Gym on Hagadorn Road, the ratio of women to men is 60 percent to 40 percent, with 75 percent of the clientele as students. Men tend to lift a lot and do a little cardio, while women attend classes such as strength training, boxing and aerobics. These are all great ways to get in shape and increase energy. But, don\’t think women can\’t lift weights and men can\’t join classes. There is no limit on what people can do to improve their bodies.
[tornga1]\”I run at least five times a week. Three times a week I try to get in a weight training session with 3- to 5-pound weights, a stability ball and a medicine ball. Then I\’ll do routines choreographed by the trainer David Kirsh in the book New York Body Plan,\” said dietetics junior Elise Truman. Her routine has been effective for two years now, and she has kept with it because it works best for her body and schedule. Her motivation is to promote a healthy lifestyle, maintain muscle, burn calories and stay in shape. Truman also understands the importance of activity in various lifestyles. \”I think fitness is an important part of everyone\’s lifestyle, but very much so for a student. It\’s hard to eat right when students are away from home a lot of the time, so exercise is a great way to keep excess weight off,\” she said. \”Also, exercise can help decrease stress, and every student has that.\”
No matter how beneficial regular fitness habits are, it is important to set realistic goals. Know exactly what you hope to improve, and find something that personally works for you and your schedule. It can be hard to drag yourself to the gym, or even outside to hit the pavement, but with a good pair of shoes, a positive attitude and goals to guide you along the way, it can be easy (and fun!) to dive into a new and healthy lifestyle and never look back.

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