I’ll be honest, this post is mainly directed to myself, because whilst I have a desire to keep active, I really don’t enjoy sports. I HATED P.E. in school, mainly because I just can’t catch, which rules out A LOT of sports. I have also been hit in the face with a ball one too many times, so that ruled out football. Anyway, this post could just be an essay on how much I hate sports or it could provide you with some actual advice so I’ll just get into it.
Why staying active is important?
It’s common sense that staying active has a multitude of benefits for both your physical and mental health, but staying fit at university can be tough to fit in with studying. A 2017 American study found that students who spent more hours of the day studying or on social media had a higher proportion of body fat, which makes sense, because when you spend all day studying, when are you going to exercise. But it is important to remember that you’re not at university just to study, and that you have to look after yourself as a person as well.
How to stay active
Join a gym
The most obvious choice, if you don’t want to join a sports team, would be to join a gym (with the current pandemic that might not be possible at the moment, but I’m writing this in the hope that things will be back to some sense of normality relatively soon). I would definitely recommend looking at different gyms in your area, not just your university gym, if you have access to a car or a good public transport system, this will be even easier.
For me, my university gym was more than double the cost of the gym I went to. It was about a 15 minute drive from my house, so access to a car was necessary, but the university gym was around 35 minutes walk from my house, and I couldn’t drive unless I went in the evening, so for me, it made so much more sense to go to a different gym.
The good thing about joining a gym is that there are OPTIONS. I prefer to lift weights and use fast incline walking for cardio, but if you wanted to turn up and run on the treadmill for an hour you could, if you wanted to do a spin class for an hour you could, if you wanted to punch and kick a sandbag, you could. You get my point.
Download/subscribe to a fitness app
There are a range of fitness apps out there that you can use in the gym or even from home, and whilst you need to pay for some, others are free. One’s I’ve used before include Shreddy and Nike Training Club, and I would recommend both of these. Using a fitness app can really help you step up your fitness levels, from planned workouts, to virtual classes. The opportunities are almost endless.
Follow a class/workout on social media
It’s amazing the things you can find for free on social media. Yes a lot of it are teasers trying to convince you to buy a product, but sometimes just taking the free advice is enough! People like @krissycela, @fitgurlmel and @kayla_itsines share lots of workouts for targeting specific areas of muscle growth. So have an explore on Instagram, save some of your favourites and then refer back to them the next time you work out.
Youtube is another great place to find free workout videos, simply search what kind of exercise you want to do and LOADS come up. I really like finding stretches/guided meditations this way. One channel that I want to shout out is Maddie Lymburner’s MadFit channel. Not only does she do workouts to popular songs, she does equipment-free workouts AND she does low-impact workouts in case you’re in a flat or upstairs and don’t want to be jumping up and down, sounding like you’re coming through the ceiling.
I don’t just mean walking to your lectures and back, I mean actually going out with the intention to walk. I do this mainly because I have dogs and need to walk them, but I actually now really enjoy my daily walks. Normally I download a podcast before I set off and listen to that whilst I’m walking (normally either Casefile or The Receipts Podcast).
Sometimes it can get a bit boring walking around your local area, so search online for my rural walks, you might be surprised at some of the places you can walk that you never knew were there. Look up your area’s public footpaths and plan a route, it can be great to take a friend and have a good talk without distractions or just to go by yourself if you want some peace. I know during the first lock down earlier this year, my daily walks with my housemate saved my mental health massively.
You’d actually be surprised at how many calories you burn and how much you can work up a sweat just from dancing. Recently I rediscovered Just Dance, and the next day I woke up and my arms were actually sore as, probably more so than when I go to the gym and do upper body lol). You don’t have to have a console and Just Dance for this, you can get lots of Zumba or Dance class DVDs or again, search YouTube and get them for free (unfortunately doing it this way means you can’t beat everybody in your family and become a Just Dance Champion, but never mind).
Clean your house/flat
Cleaning your house can actually be quite tiring and you end up using a lot of different muscle groups. Stick some music on and vacuum your whole house, mop the floors, dust all the surfaces and bleach the toilets, you’ll probably want a bit of a rest afterwards.
If you’re interested in exercise as a form of self care, check out my post on other forms of self care.
If you’re interested in working out, check out my workout tracker template that comes as part of my Student Life Packs.
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Calestine J, Bopp M, Bopp CM, Papalia Z. College Student Work Habits are Related to Physical Activity and Fitness. Int J Exerc Sci. 2017 Nov 1;10(7):1009-1017. PMID: 29170702; PMCID: PMC5685070.