For many people in Vancouver, the beginning of April signals the return of sunshine — and with it, long days at the beach, hiking, and biking to work or the gym. For many UBC students, however, it signals the start of the busiest, and most stressful part of the year: exam period. Understandably, for some people the natural reaction to stress is to hide under the covers with textbooks and a flashlight, emerging only for periodic energy drink and Netflix breaks. At a time like this, sticking to a fitness routine may be low on your list of priorities.
It’s scientifically proven that exercise has a wide range of physical and mental health benefits, including stress reduction and improved memory. Whether it’s working out at a local UBC gym, or simply going for a run, taking some time out of your day to exercise can have exponentially positive effects.
We spoke with three Gold’s Gym UMP trainers, all of whom are UBC students in the midst of studying, about how they balance health and fitness with exam-related stress.
“I need to work out to be productive,” says Kevin, a fourth-year kinesiology student. “Yes, I have a lot of things to study for — but I still make time to come into the gym, do all my resistance and cardio training, and then make sure that I study after that. If I don’t work out, I feel like I can’t focus at all.”
Caitlin, also a fourth-year kinesiology student, feels similarly. “Working out definitely makes me feel a lot happier and ready for the day… just getting up and moving around at all can really have a big impact.”
As much as the benefits of exercise speak for themselves, they alone may not be enough to motivate a person to leave the house. For some people, like second-year kinesiology student Joanna, keeping to a fairly strict schedule is the best way to not let fitness fall through the cracks.
“I always make sure to first go to class, get my workout in, and then schedule my clients. After that, I have the rest of my night to study,” she says. “I just make sure that I know, ‘my exam day is “this”,’ and I plan out my schedule a week or two before to know what time I’ll be training each day.”
Kevin takes a more relaxed approach to keeping up his routine.
“I just go with the flow. Maybe I’m not the best student there is, but I try to get up as early as possible to get going to the gym crossed off my daily schedule, and I go from there.”
If you’re feeling like you can’t afford to trade study time for working out, try treating fitness as a study break. It may interrupt your seventh re-watch of Friends, but you’ll feel better for it.
“An hour or two isn’t going to be detrimental to your studying,” says Kevin. “Take an hour or so to go to the gym, get a sweat going, then come back and study more.”
“A couple of hours of workouts isn’t going to make my grades worse. It’s actually going to make them better, because I have a mental break, those endorphins running — a clear head,” Joanna agrees.
Ultimately, it’s about recognizing the importance of your physical and mental health, and realizing that academic performance is closely tied to it.
“I try to keep calm and know that even if I can’t perform to the best of my abilities, it’s fine — I’ll know I’ve tried,” says Joanna. “That’s all that really matters.”