Lifting Your Spirits: Mental Health and Fitness
As the days get shorter, nights are draw quicker, it can be harder to muster up the energy and motivation to get up and out. However, if you're like me and suffer from anxiety it can feel a million times harder even on a regular day.
Exercise can offer you a release for all the built up stresses we hold in our tense shoulders and tight chests. Therefore, I would like to share some of the advice I have learnt regarding using exercise as a tool to help not only improve your physical health, but also your mental health.
Food for Thought
As nutrition and exercise go hand in hand it is important to consider your meals, not only when fitting them into a lunch break but also, think about the energy you are giving your body throughout the day. The worst thing you can do is skip breakfast then go to class and then hit the gym after on an empty stomach... a big no no. Sadly you will feel much worse afterwards and may even cause yourself digestive issues further along the line if it becomes a habit. My biggest tip regarding meals would be to meal prep your lunch for a couple of days in advance to take to uni, by doing this you'll save money and feed yourself well. Rice, chicken and veggies are the way to go! As well as a protein bar and some fruit juice or water. As for breakfast, you cant go wrong with a smoothie. Argos sells a £15 blender for us students who are on a budget, and they are worth every penny! Smoothies are packed with nutritious vitamins and fibre too.
Weights > Cardio
If you're looking to lose weight, tone up or just get out of the dorms then yes cardio is the easy way to go, but, neglecting the weight section can make the experience much less rewarding and enjoyable. There is nothing like the feeling of getting stronger. Cardio can leave your tummy rumbling and your body tired, while weights provides a steady burn of calories even after a workout is over. My mental health improved a lot after I built up the confidence to venture into the weights section, and during exam season it provided me with a productive way to blow off steam! You can get a full body workout with just a pair of dumb bells so if you're afraid of the big machines like me then fear not! Grab a pair of free weights and find a quiet place to yourself. I often retreat to the studio or if you're lucky enough, the ladies only area.
Pre-study Gym Session
If you've got a big assignment due or an exam date is looming then prioritize studying. But if you're like me and cant bring themselves to the desk and put pen to paper then a gym session, zoomba class or jog may be the best way forward! Getting your body moving and energy flowing will make studying much easier. You'll even find yourself remembering things better as the endorphins released during exercise improves your mood and productivity. If you don't want to leave your room them I suggest yoga, Pilates or even dancing to connect your mind and body to get the energy flowing.
Memberships and finding the right gym can be difficult, and doing your research is very important before signing up for anything. My advice if you are looking for a gym would be to go and get a tour of the site to get a feeling for the gym and see if it suits your needs. Assess if its machines are up to date and if the changing rooms are secure and cleaned regularly. You want the best environment possible if you're paying £10+ each month. Most gyms provide a student membership, however they are not far off the regular price so I suggest if your campus has a free student gym then definitely utilise that first.
Taking all of these tips into account the key thing to take away from this is to prioritise yourself. Listen to your body. If you come down with the flu for example then it's okay to take a break from class, work, the gym and commitments. Take care of yourself and know when things have gotten too much, and never feel guilty for resting!