Healthy foundations: Making time to exercise

Healthy foundations: Making time to exercise

Regular exercise and staying fit is so important to living a healthy life, but how often do you exercise? Since starting my blog and sharing my science journey through Instagram, it’s made me aware of how many people rarely get that heart rate up – and yes grad school students, I’m looking at you!

Too much to do, too little time right? I’m going to be that devil on your shoulder and say, sorry, you can always find time! I know people don’t like to hear that, but bare with me…

In this blog post we’ll explore the positive effects of exercise and I’ll be dishing out some tips to help you get more fitness into your busy schedule.

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The wonders of exercise…

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Improves brain function

Studies have found that exercise helps to improve learning and memory. Physical activity leads to an increase in the expression of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in areas of the brain including the hippocampus (brain centre for memory). It is known to support the growth of new neurones, neural survival and synaptic plasticity. Exercise also stimulates other growth factors which promote the growth of brain cells and slows down age-related decline. If you want to nerd-out, read more about exercise and the brain in this review article.

Fun fact: Different exercises have different mental gains!

Ulitmate brain workout
Image: New Scientist

 

Positive mindset

Exercise can alleviate stress by stimulating the release of that feel-good molecule serotonin and other endorphins. They essentially act as natural painkillers which in turn improve our mood and mental health. Exercise also helps us to sleep better, consequently lowering those stress levels.

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Movement/mobility

Daily desk job workers – how does your body feel when you’re sat down most of the working day? After a while, probably not fantastic. Having good mobility is required to perform everyday activities. Developing bad postural habits and limiting your joint mobility is not going to do you any favours! Staying active and regular stretching will really help to prevent mobility issues in the future.

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Lowers disease risk

Exercise is great for our general health! It improves our muscular, cardiorespiratory, and bone health. It lowers the risk of developing complications such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, obesity and type-II diabetes. Weight training strengthens our muscles and helps to maintain our muscle mass. This is important as it slows down the rate of decline in muscle mass and strength that we experience as we get older (sarcopenia) leading to falls and fractures.

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yoga

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My top tips to get fitness into your routine:

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Schedule in exercise time!

Just like you plan your work and social plans, schedule in the time to exercise as well. Planning when you’re going to go for a run or lift those weights in the gym will help you to focus on work beforehand and create more of a balance.

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Start small, build it up.

If you’re new to this whole exercise thing, then don’t go all out to start with! We want it to be a shift in mindset – a new lifestyle choice rather than a phase. Maybe just start off by exercising two/three days a week and gradually build it up.

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Ditch the car, cycle.

Cycling is a great way to get from A to B. You don’t get stuck in the traffic, you’ve exercised before the day has really begun, and you’re helping the environment. Triple win.

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Get some extra steps.

Take the longer route to work. Cut the time you spend in the coffee room for lunch and finish it with a 15-minute walk. If walking isn’t something you usually enjoy, try combining it with listening to a podcast or audiobook you like. Make it fun!

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Find fitness you enjoy!

Hate running but love exercise classes? Then choose the classes! Exercise should be enjoyable. It’s your “me” time so make the most of it and don’t make this part of your day harder for yourself.

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Make it part of your social time

Join a sociable form of exercise, like crossfit or a team sport. Alternatively, get a friend to go with you on that run/walk/fitness class. Exercise can be a social event too! Plus, it keeps you accountable to someone else.

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Create fitness goals

Like I said, we want exercise to become a habit and not a temporary love affair. It’s good to have focusses on other things than work. Whether it’s signing up for a 5k run, climbing up a mountain, getting that 100kg deadlift, set a couple of goals and work towards them. It will keep that motivation to stay fit.

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Are you taking enough time out of your week to stay active? How do you like to stay fit and healthy? As always, please comment below as I love to hear from you…

To read the first in my “Healthy foundations” mini-series all about sleep, click here.

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8 thoughts on “Healthy foundations: Making time to exercise

  1. Great post! Making time to exercise is sometimes hard. However, I find when I do, I tend to feel less stressed and anxious in general. Adding a fitness routine has really changed my mentality in graduate school! I wish grad programs would embrace this and offer more exercise and wellness options that are easily accessible to researchers. A friend of mine’s industry research job offers group Yoga once a week during lunch!

    I’ll be doing a series soon on my blog that relates lessons I’ve learned from my fitness journey with my PhD journey! You may find it interesting! Should be up in the next few weeks or so!!!

    Again, great post; really enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! So lovely to hear 🙂 Ah can’t wait to read those blog posts, right up my street! So glad you’ve found a way to incorporate fitness into your routine and that it’s really helped. I completely agree, more wellness options like yoga is something universities should offer to researchers. My department do actually have yoga sessions now and again but only available to permanent staff, asked to be added to the email list and never heard back! Postgrads would benefit from it so much.

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  2. Great article Lisa! I perform so much better in my studies (and life), and generally just feel happier and enjoy what I do more when I am in the swing of exercising. It is hard sometimes; last year at uni I struggled to exercise as much as I wanted because I was tired and stressed all the time (early Crossfit WODS are hard when you’ve had little sleep :P). x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It makes such a difference doesn’t it?! Oh gosh early crossfit classes really are hard with little sleep. I tried mornings but I’m not good with 9pm bedtimes. Would be a great way to start the day, if only I was then able to function at work!! x

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    1. Thank you Andrea! Commuting and settling into a new job definitely makes exercising more of a challenge, hope you can find ways to fit it all in and the job is going well! x

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