Health and WellnessOpinion

Making time for physical activity isn’t realistic for all university students (re: Student Voices: Academia’s effect on physical health)

You don’t always need to live healthy. Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of droning on as you may be used to about the usual healthy physical and mental choices, I’m here to tell you that you need not feel guilty for being unhealthy.

The idea of ahealthy and balanced” lifestyle is one that’s been drilled into us by society ever since we were in elementary school. The so-called balance is all too familiar: regular exercise, avoid junk food, get a good night’s sleep — the list goes on of choices you could make to live a happy and satisfying life. While we can generally agree these suggestions benefit our physical well-being, sometimes they just aren’t realistic when it comes to day-to-day university life.

Student health is an ongoing discussion and was a recent topic on the Faculty of Arts’ Work of Arts blog, a regular online feature discussing life at the university. The author suggested that moving forward, it may be time for the university to place a larger emphasis on physical activity throughout one’s university degree, similar to how high school students are required to take phys ed in order to graduate. Some ideas brought to the table included adding physical education requirements to all faculties, or even giving exercise routines on certain days as homework assignments.

For many students, the choice to exercise is one that’s made when they decide they can find time. I can say from personal experience that my own exercise routine varies depending on what needs to be done that week. The only sports, if any, I can find time to participate in are recreational, and even then I cannot give a solid commitment. If the university was to enforce requirements for physical activity, these would be stacked upon the current degree requirements and probably increase the overall stress of university. The choice to exercise and be constantly active is a personal one, and this area is not one that needs to be touched by the university. After all, the majority of us are first and foremost students — not athletes.

To go even further, it’s sometimes the unfortunate truth that stress, and even mental discomfort, are often necessary compromises in life towards the goals we wish to pursue. While everyone’s abilities and ambitions are different, in my experience, those who succeed when managing challenges in their academic lives have made some “unhealthy” compromises to get to where they are. We can go on pretending there are always enough hours in the day to get everything done right and still end up on top, but anyone who’s been in a job interview and has been asked about their extracurriculars, club involvement, and project work can attest to the fact that it just isn’t realistic to find time to get it all done while taking on a full course load and aiming for an amazing GPA — even with the best time management. While such focused and intense lifestyles may sound like something we may want to avoid, the line that defines success at the highest level will always be between those who are willing to go the extra mile and those who give up early — for whatever reason that might be.

This idea of pushing students to embrace a less stressful lifestyle is already in effect in a more practical sense through the well-intentioned “Unwind Your Mind” and similar stress mitigating events held throughout campus during midterms and finals season. A variety of activities are hosted including workshops, yoga sessions, and even video games to give students an opportunity to take some time off during their busy schedules. The accessible, drop-in nature of these activities is probably the best solution to the stress issue and the easiest way to relax, especially for those students who might have the odd, free half hour to spend.

Sometimes you’re just too tired out from school to regularly exercise. Sometimes you don’t get to touch your hobbies or leisure activities for extended periods of time. It’s important to understand that this is okay and that the reality is academic life can and should be competitive at times. Consider another pursuit such as an athlete training to one day be in the Olympics: compromise in their life to work towards their sport is often understood without question. It’s no different here — if you really want to get that 4.0, you may just not have the time to work physical activity into your routine. Training the mind is no easier than training the body, so don’t be surprised when there are some blood and tears along the way — with a little less sweat than you might be comfortable with.

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One Comment

  1. Mandated exercise? The transition from educational Institute to daycare seems to be a rather smooth one.

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