Staying Active During the School Year
By: Urmika Balaji, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fauzia Haque, Editor; Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief
Have you ever sat in the same place for hours doing homework without even realizing it? You sat down to start when you got home from school, and all of a sudden when you look up, it’s dark outside. When faced with so much work, it can be very difficult for students to prioritize their health. Often, proper sleep, eating, and exercise habits are sacrificed, which can cause increased fatigue, burnout, and attention deficits. Sleep, eating, and exercise habits are often influenced by each other, and exercise, due to time constraints, is often sacrificed entirely, causing issues with sleeping and eating. Globally, 80% of teens reported not getting at least 60 minutes of exercise a day (DW), which is the recommended amount by CDC (CDC). While dedicating an entire hour to exercising may seem difficult with school activities, just dedicating a little time for moderate or vigorous exercise can have a huge impact on your sleep and eating habits.
The Benefits of Exercising
Exercising has many physical and mental benefits for teens. Physical benefits include stronger muscles, bones, and joints as well as healthier skin, management of heart health, management of weight, better muscle coordination, and much more (Planet Fitness). Mentally, it can provide an outlet for stress, more optimism and focus, better quality of sleep and self-confidence. The mental benefits of exercising can also positively impact performance at school from improved self confidence, motivation, and focus (Planet Fitness).
How to Exercise with a busy schedule:
Isolating 60 minutes of your day just for exercise can seem impossible with a back-to-back schedule. So instead, try to incorporate it in between or with other parts of your day, such as commuting or studying (St. Mary's University). Here are some easy ways to incorporate exercise into a busy day.
Bike/Walk to school
If you don’t live too far away from your school, consider biking or walking to get some extra physical activity into your day. It might require you to leave a little earlier, so make the necessary adjustments to your sleep schedule so that you can leave without feeling too rushed. By consistently walking or biking to school, you are not only bettering your physical and mental health, but also helping the environment, saving money on gas, and contributing to less traffic (MANA). If you live farther away from your school and need to take the bus or car, consider getting off a stop early or parking in a nearby neighborhood, and walk the rest of the distance to get some exercise in.
Join a sport
Consider joining a school sport if you are struggling to commit to a workout routine at home. Joining a sport is a good way to make sure you dedicate time in your day to exercise, and in the process, you build stronger friendships, higher self esteem, time management skills, and responsibility (“At Your Own Risk”) . However, know that the majority of school sports require try-outs or prior experience, so you will need to consider how capable you are before you join a sport. Additionally, training for a sport can take up a large part of your day, so make sure you are prepared to commit, and that you plan on doing your homework timely and studying accordingly.
Source: Hackensack Meridian Health
Short Walk or Workout with a friend/family member
If you find a gap in your schedule, when you might consider scrolling through social media, instead consider engaging in some exercise, such as a short walk or workout. This is a great way to energize yourself before getting back to a study session. Additionally, consider working out or walking with a friend instead of on your own, so that you can prevent yourself from delaying or not doing the activity. Even if you are limited to just 10 or 15 minutes, many short 5 to 10-minute workouts are readily available on many fitness YouTubers’ channels.
Source: The Noun Project
Incorporate breaks to move in between studying (Pomodoro Technique)
If you are very short on time, and are trying to maximize productivity, consider taking time to simply move when you take a break. The Pomodoro Technique, which breaks up work time into 25-minute blocks, in which one works for 20 minutes and takes a break for 5 minutes after, helps you maximize the amount of work you get done in a short period of time, and rewards you with a break (The Muse). During those five-minute breaks, consider taking a small stroll in your backyard or around your house, stretching, or doing a few push-ups so that you can refresh your brain before the next 25-minute study session. Nights before a test can often give you no time to take a real break, so make the most out of small breaks in between studying so that you don’t get too tired.
High school can make it seem as if nothing is more important than your classes and getting into college, however, no matter what, your overall health is always more important. Maintaining your health will help you stay focused in school, so it is worth taking a small break to eat, nap, or workout in between a study session. Exercise is especially helpful in making sure your eating and sleeping habits are kept in check, while also helping you build the focus and self-confidence to do well in school. Activities as simple as short five-minute workouts in between study sessions can help one incorporate exercise in their life. Overall, instead of using your breaks to scroll through social media, try to incorporate some form of exercise, so that you can better the quality of your life and school performance.