We hear it all the time, right? “Healthy mind, healthy body,” “Keep fit, work hard, work out,” “Exercise reduces stress, doesn’t it?” It’s undeni
able the mind is truly powerful, and the body is pretty amazing in itself. But is exercise really all it’s made out to be, or is it just more work? Why do people get up to work out at the gym at 6am, even in the rain? Why has wearing active wear become as stylish as any other latest trend? What are the benefits of exercise, and why should exercise be a part of all of our lives for our own physical and mental wellbeing?
As a student who loves to work out regularly, I’ve found the ‘cons’ of making time, getting up earlier, and pushing through a challenging workout are far outweighed by the pros. Hitting the gym regularly has had immense positive impacts on my mental and physical health, relationships, and life in general. It’s an invaluable part of my life as student. Here are my top six reasons that you should consider hitting the gym as well:
1. Brain gains - Exercise is incredible for brain health and performance. Even moderate amounts of exercise helps optimise brain circuits that sharpen concentration and alertness, strengthen memory, enhance cognitive function and even help balance hormones. Exercise also releases BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) that promotes new brain connections to form and helps repair nerve damage.
2. Happy hearts and energy - Yep - exercise increases energy. Physical activity aids blood circulation, increasing oxygen supply to cells for organs to function optimally. Your heart is a muscle and exercise strengthens it. Improved blood circulation raises metabolism, and when your metabolism increases, so does your energy.
3. Less stress - I feel you. Uni stresses are real. But so are the mood-boosting, stress-reducing chemicals that the brain produces during exercise. Think serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and endorphins. All these chemicals combine to increase motivation, reduce pain, calm fear and anxiety, and boost our sense of wellbeing. More inner peace and bliss - yes please! I’ve definitely found that working out has helped reduce my stress at University.
4. Self-esteem and unshakable confidence - Standing in front of the mirror, we tend to focus more on what we’re not happy with about our bodies than what we love. Exercise not only leads to body confidence and feeling fantastic in what we’re wearing, it also creates epic confidence, as we work toward goals, persevere at them with discipline and determination, and achieve them with patience and passion. Since exercise is trackable, so is progress, and this feeling that we are growing and bettering ourselves increases self-esteem and contributes to having a sense of control in life even in the midst of uni stresses and life’s challenges.
5. Reflect, refresh, reset - Sometimes the best way to clear our minds after a long day at uni is through exercise. Nothing quite beats going on a walk in nature or sweating it out after hours of lectures and study sessions that don’t seem to end. Physical activity can take us out of our busy minds and back into our bodies in the present moment. Exercise also improves sleep, so we can enjoy relaxing afterwards too.
6. Relationships - Exercise even positively impact your relationships. There is no doubt that all the brain chemicals, reduced stress, and increased self-esteem and confidence can contribute to happier, healthier relationships. Exercise is also a fun activity you can do with a partner or friends, or to make friends! Fitness classes, gym communities, sport teams and exercise groups all provide a sense of community with like-minded people who all value health. “Friends who sweat together, stay together.”
So why not! Exercise is fun, practical, purposeful, healthy and super rewarding. Plus, AUT has gyms on all three campuses - north, south and city, with friendly experienced trainers and an impressive range of gym equipment and classes. So don’t let excuses and “some days” stop you. Walking the path of a healthy lifestyle starts with a single step. Just start small and keep going - you got this! With AUT’s Mental Health Day coming up on May 7th, why not show your wellbeing some love, give exercise a go and get off your ‘but.’
Psychology and Health Promotion Student
Diversity Officer (Student Representative Council)