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Exercise for health, not for physique

Now that mid-terms have passed, we are entering the final stretch of the semester. For many students the month of November means it is crunch time to complete final projects or face another cluster of tests. As a result, we may find ourselves pinned down by our workload and needing some sort of relief. It is crucial to take a break from studying. But what I am suggesting does not involve playing video games, perusing Facebook, watching YouTube or online TV or having a cigarette – these activities will keep us in our seats, and they do not require any physical exertion. Instead I look to a healthier alternative: exercise.

Physical activity is beneficial to us in that it reduces stress, keeps us relaxed, elevates our mood, helps us maintain a well-balanced body weight and can assist with overall focus on studying. It is also a way to challenge ourselves at our own pace.

Exercising to achieve a desired body image (lowest body fat percentage, chiseled abs, hard pecs, etc.) is too demanding, and too Hollywood. Keep in mind that celebrities have time to work out and are able to afford personal trainers and expensive dietary supplements. As students, we should remain focused on academic achievements rather than body-sculpting, and make exercise a part-time hobby.

Strapped for time? Many of us are involved in a full course load, a part-time job or volunteer work. Implementing a workout regimen into our routine may seem like too much to handle. However, Dr. David Behm, associate dean in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, says that studies suggest a 20-minute session consisting of aerobic and resistance exercises, three to five times a week, is the minimum recommendation. He also adds that exercise can keep us mentally alert for hours, rather than exhausted.

Dr. Virginia Grant from the Department of Psychology notes that studies show that exercise may trigger a release of endogenous opiates (endorphins) that give us a natural high. This in turn may have an operant conditioning effect. In other words, the endorphin rush then reinforces the exercise to reoccur.

The Works membership is automatically included with our student fees, so please make use of the facility. We have a state-of-the-art recreational complex at our fingertips. It offers an indoor track, weight rooms, cardio machines, exercise and stretching areas, indoor pools for open scheduled swims (in both the Field House and the Aquarena), aerobic classes and change rooms with lockers and showers. For more information about The Works, log onto www.theworksonline.ca.

Being active is an important contribution to our overall health. While exercising, our body and mind are positively affected. Therefore, we should not deprive both from what they deserve. And remember, when in the gym do not feel intimidated by the capabilities of others; you are there for yourself.

Joshua Duff is a third-year student majoring in political science and English language and literature at Memorial University. He can be reached at jrd218@mun.ca.

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