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Breaking Down Brain Break: Why Exercise is Important During Exam Season

We made it! Classes are finally finished for the term, but that means exam season is starting, which brings with it it’s own level of added stress. We always hear that its important to exercise, especially during this busy time of year. But when you break down how much you need to study, and compare it to how many hours you can realistically study each day, there doesn’t seem to be much room in there for a workout session. I know we’re all guilty of pushing off our workout routines, and let our healthy habits slip during exam season, always telling ourselves that once exams are finished, we’ll pick back up with our routines. And maybe we do, but does that mean we should be neglecting our well-being for the next month? Short answer: no!   Luckily, there are so many awesome programs put on during exam season to help us destress and try to take care of ourselves a bit better. Exam Jam at Sid Smith has therapy dogs and free massages, so you know I dropped by to get in some much needed puppy love! But one of my favorite programs is Brain Break, put on by MoveU during each exam season. It takes place in Robarts, so for all you people holing up in the stacks, it’s a great chance to come up for air and get moving! There are a number of different activities to choose from, and each time you complete an activity, you can sign up for a chance to win a bunch of awesome prizes, from an Under Armour duffel bag, Starbucks gift cards, or a free training session at the Athletic Centre! You can choose to do things like squats, pushups, planks, or jumping jacks, and they always have some healthy snacks on hand. (Free food is where it’s at, am I right?!)

Author doing a plank

  I try to work out as much as I can, especially when I’m feeling stressed. But I don’t know too much about the science behind why it’s so important, so I decided to do a bit of research. Turns out that physical activity releases endorphins, which really boosts mood. Even as little as five minutes of activity can have anti-anxiety effects, which is why activities like Brain Break are super great! It also helps you sleep better, and a good night’s sleep is really important for being productive in your studying. Exercise also helps to lower cortisol levels, which is that pesky stress hormone that you really don’t need when you’re trying to study! Apparently, regular exercise can even increase the size of your hippocampus, and for all you neuroscience and psych nerds out there, you know how important the hippocampus is for memory retention!   It can be really challenging to balance study time with gym time. But work out sessions don’t need to be super long in order to experience the benefits. The act of taking even a short ten-minute break will help you to refocus and recharge a bit before diving back into the books. So even if your break is a short walk in the library, get moving! Your body and grades will thank you!

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