Physical activity and exercise
Life as a student is often very sedentary; your body, however, is "designed" for action and locomotion. Here are some useful tips on how to increase the amount of exercise you get. You will also find facts about physical activity and links to further reading.
New research demonstrates that a sedentary lifestyle, regardless of amounts of physical exercise, increases the risk for illness and shortens life expectancy.
Luckily, very little is needed to counteract these negative health effects, such as getting out of your chair to stretch your legs at regular intervals. Even moderate exercise pays off. The most important thing is to exercise regularly. The effects of exercise are quick and short lived. Please feel free to contact the Student Health Center for consultations regarding your lifestyle and physical activity level.
What does it look like for you?
Here you can do a test about physical activity and your exercise habits. The questionnaire consists of eight questions and you will receive constructive feedback.
How can you increase the amount of physical activity you take?
Sit still less
The best way to get started is to decrease the amount of time you spend sitting still. Take some time to get out of your chair to stretch your legs at regular intervals. If you can, raise your desk and work standing up.
Increase the amount of everyday exercise you get
Try to move around for at least 30 minutes a day. Whatever exercise you choose, you should exert yourself enough to feel hot and for your pulse and breathing to rise while still being able to hold a normal conversation. You don't have to be active for a full 30 minutes in one go; taking two 15-minutes walks a day is also good for you.
Up the intensity a few times a week
It's good if you can also exercise at a slightly higher level of intensity a few times a week (at 60-80 per cent of your maximum capacity) to improve your fitness. Do this for at least 30-minitues on each occasion for best effect. If you can, include some form of low-intensity weight training twice a week.
Further training for losing weight
To lose or maintain weight, you need to do some additional exercise - at least an hour's daily activity. All physical activity counts, not just long sessions on the track or in the gym, but also everyday activity. Small portion sizes make a difference too.
Get your "bonus exercise"!
You get a lot of bonus exercise as you go about your daily life that you can credit to your exercise account, such as cleaning, doing housework or walking the dog. Another way is to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting still, watching TV or using your laptop. Organise things so that you have to get up at regular intervals while studying. A major plus is if you're able to cycle or walk to and from work. Or why not get off the bus or train one stop earlier? Remember that leisure activities such as dancing, bowling and going for walks also count.
Ideas for getting started
- Stretch your legs every half an hour if you sit a lot at the computer (set a reminder on your mobile every 40 minutes).
- Get motivated! Think about what you'd gain from being more active. (You can find the health benefits of training below).
- Try things out. Exercise in a way that you enjoy and that feels good.
- Let your body get used to the increase in activity. Start with brief periods of low-intensity activity, such as a 10-minute walk, and then gradually level up.
- Get your diary out if you find this useful. Schedule time for exercise; but try to make it something fun rather than something that makes you feel guilty if you don't do it.
- Get together with friends! It's always easier to get started with a little help from others. Don't get obsessed with exercise, just enjoy it and feel good. The most important thing is to exercise regularly.
The health benefits of exercise
- The heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood, making you stronger and giving you more energy.
- You feel less stressed and more relaxed.
- You become more energised and happier with yourself.
- You reduce and prevent tension.
- You sleep better
- You become more agile and more in tune with your body.
Last but not least – research suggests an improvement in academic results.
When shouldn't I exercise?
Physical activity can be risky if you're ill - not only for your own health but also for those around you (who might catch what you have). Always rest when you have:
- a temperature
- a general feeling of sickness, alone or in combination with one or more of these symptoms: muscular pain or tenderness, non-specific joint pain and headache (even if your body temperature is normal).