Exercise may be the key to conquering exam season

It’s exam season, and whether that means you are spending every waking moment cramming for exams or writing endless essays, this time of year is hard for every university student. Athleisure is the name of the game this time of year, right? Wrong.

The reason being that endorphins, and their role in helping our bodies – and brains! – handle stress. Consistent exercise helps maintain your mental fitness by promoting healthy sleeping patterns, improving concentration and alertness, and overall enhancing your cognitive function. Combine those things and you get the perfect recipe for getting through exam season with your mental health intact and your grades unscathed, if not improved.

Making time for exercise

The science is fairly conclusive that physically active people generally have lower rates of anxiety disorders, which is largely accredited to exercise helping the brain cope with extra stress. But that doesn’t mean that being sedentary means you are doomed to suffer the anxiety-ridden consequences, and even better, you don’t need to start devoting hours of your time to it either.

In fact, some studies have found that a mere 10-minute brisk walk or other activity (say, dancing around your apartment) may work as well as a 45-minute workout and provide hours of stress relief. Considering the benefits of exercise on your brain’s ability to focus on work, I think we can all agree we have at least 10 minutes to spare on a walk in the nice spring weather.

Making the best of physical health

The NHS recommends 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity per week and using at least two days of the week to do strength exercises that work the major muscle groups. Ways to incorporate these guidelines into your study-intensive life for the next few weeks may seem intimidating, but here are some tips to maximize your success.

  • Walk, don’t metro – The weather is improving every day, and most things in Newcastle are less than a 45-minute walk away. This extra time spent walking is a great time to either relax and listen to music or podcasts, or alternatively, revise mentally and wrap your head around what you want to get done that day.
  • When your brain gets tired, squat it out – Mental fatigue is the bane of revision, but there is an easy fix: get up and get your blood pumping. Whether you do this through body weight exercises (squats, lunges, push-ups, leg raises) or aerobic (star jumps, high knees, dancing) or a quick yoga flow, your brain will appreciate the break from studying and the extra oxygen from the movement!
  • Find a buddy – One of the best ways to make a new habit is to not do it alone. Having someone else to keep you accountable and vice versa can make all the difference, so get your friends involved. Walks with friends can turn out to be the best part of your day.

So maybe the key to this exam season is to spend just a little less time studying, and a little more time supporting our bodies. Good luck!