Why is it important to prioritize exercising as a college student?

It is often difficult for people with busy schedules, like college students, to find time in their day or week for a consistent exercise program. However, the benefits of exercise come with even short bouts of exercise, such as boosting your mood, improving cognitive function, promoting a more regular sleep schedule, and helping to stabilize weight. It is important to realize that finding time to exercise is important for physical and mental wellness, which will benefit your other activities greatly over time.

The physical benefits of exercise include:

  • Reduces your risk of heart diseases. 
  • Helps your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Strengthens your bones and muscles. 
  • Reduces your risk of some cancers, including colon, breast, uterine, and lung cancer.
  • Helps with maintaining weight.
  • Improves your sexual health.

The mental benefits of exercise include: 

  • Reduces stress
  • Improves depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age
  • Increases self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Improves your sleep

The social benefits of exercise include:

  • Can help create bonds with others
  • Creating a sense of belonging and self
  • Learning cooperation, especially in team settings

Sources: Mayo Clinic, CDC

Understanding Fitness

Physical fitness is defined as “the ability to meet the demands of the environment” and includes how your body is able to meet the physical demands of your day-to-day life, including both work and leisure activities. Fitness is heavily influenced by exercise, nutrition, sleep, and other lifestyle choices. 

When exercising, what specific activities you choose to do improve your fitness in different ways. The lists below explain the eleven fitness components that are improved by exercise and divide them into two lists: health-related components and skill-related components. 

Understanding these components can help you evaluate how your exercise routine helps your physical fitness and can help you prioritize what components of your physical fitness you want to focus on. 

Sources: Benefits of Physical Activity: UMN School of Kinesiology, BBC – Bitesize: Keeping fit and healthy through sports

Tips for Goal Setting for Exercise Routines

Pinpoint your ultimate goal of your exercise routine.

Creating an overarching goal for yourself can help you determine what’s important for you to prioritize in your exercise routine, from determining specific physical fitness goals to focusing more on the mental or social benefits of exercise. Depending on what you want from your exercise routine, it ca

Figure out specific steps to achieve your ultimate goal.

Taking the time to plan and develop smaller, specific steps within your routine can make your ultimate goal easier to achieve and easier to see progress. This can include setting up mini-goals within your routine or focusing on either one or multiple of the health/skill components of fitness. A helpful way to goal-set on this scale is to follow the SMART approach, which is a goal-setting approach designed to make your goals accessible. 

Monitor your progress in concrete ways regularly to check if you are meeting your goals.

This can help you celebrate your improvements in your exercise routine. If you are struggling to meet your original goals, don’t be afraid to change your smaller, more specific steps. This can help keep up motivation and make you less likely to abandon your overall exercise goals

Be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances.

You may need to adjust your exercise routine depending on short-term interruptions to your routines, such as traveling, or long-term changes in your lifestyle, such as a job switch or an injury. Being prepared ahead of time can help make these disruptions to your exercise routine more easily manageable. 

Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Exercise goals can take a long time to accomplish, or it may be hard to see progress. Allow yourself empathy towards yourself, and remember that you are worth the effort you are putting into yourself.