Sweat it: Why you should be worried about your lack of exercise

Are you one of those people who ceased all attempts at physical exertion the moment your university career began? If yes, withhold panic: you are not alone. But panic, because forgoing exercise is (as you may have already guessed) a very very bad life decision with lasting damages. Instead of bombarding you with boring stats that you could probably find in a textbook you’re not reading, we are going to discuss the scary ramifications of not exercising in a, hopefully, motivating manner.

Self-loathing-induced body composition:

Inner beauty is one thing; the whole ‘love who you are no matter what your body size’ spiel is great — but not giving a shit about yourself and expecting people to accept you for who you are is a whole different story. It’s not about being superficial or shallow anymore — you’re just damn lazy, and being lazy isn’t going to make you feel good about yourself. Instead of just sitting around complaining about your body size, it’s probably much more effective to get up and actually do something about it.

Like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make people happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” While most (if not all) of the movie is ridiculously implausible, this particular quote holds some truth. Some. The University of Bristol conducted research published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management which found that people who exercised were more productive, happier, and less stressed than they were on days they did not exercise. Seventy-four per cent claimed they managed their workload better and those who exercised reported higher in concentration levels than those who did not. I think those are traits that the student population could benefit from having more of. People who exercise can feel the difference in their bodies; it make you feel physically better and also releases chemicals in the brain that make you happier! The University of Bristol shits you not.

Uselessness:

A major point of being physically active and healthy is so you can live your life to its full potential. By sitting around all day, you’re not just harming yourself, but you`re being a generally useless human being. (Sorry.) Imagine your future self out buying groceries: as you lift your bags, you complain about how tired your arms are, and you get winded going from the store exit to your car. If you’re only 30 years old, age is not an excuse — and neither is claiming that your groceries weigh 350 pounds (because then you’re exaggerating). It’s because you spent your early adult years sitting in front of your computer, sleeping in until the late afternoon, and traveling as few as six blocks by car. Your future self then proceeds to throw out its back, and your kid starves to death at home without food.

Just because a girl is small, and might actually regard herself as healthy and fit, doesn’t mean that she is healthy — especially when she has thighs with the same thickness as her wrist. You can usually make an educated guess on who is naturally small-framed, and who doesn’t do any physical activity besides holding out two coat hangers to compare outfits (0.2 pounds, so heavy).

Severe balance problems: 

‘Bus surfing’ is a perilous endeavor wrought with twists, turns, bumps, and abrupt stops. For those who can’t get a seat, they’re left to hang on for dear pride in order to avoid losing their balance and falling into somebody’s lap. Yet somehow there are always a few people who just stand in the middle, knees slightly bent, fluidly moving in tune with the motions of the bus. You gaze in amazement and envy as this martial artist reads a newspaper, holds on to their backpack, and untangles their iPod headphones with an expression that could only be described as serene. With this brief loss of concentration, the bus takes a turn and you’re flung into the now very pissed off girl next to you.

Balance is a component of fitness, and like all components of fitness, it can be worked on and improved. Strengthening your core muscle groups (abdominal and lower back) as well as your legs can greatly help in preventing an accidental personal space invasion (re: fiasco). Going to yoga classes is a good, low-stress, way to start.

Cardiovascular impairment: 

It’s been a long grueling day filled with confusing lectures, tutorials where nobody says anything, and a four-hour lab to boot. You can’t wait until you get home for a nice meal and shower — wait, is that the 145 at the bus stop? Frantically, you dodge what seems like a thousand students and rush towards the doors of the bus — only to see them close in your face. Waving to the driver is futile, and you’re left gasping for air from your 100-metre dash. Sweaty and now thoroughly annoyed, you curse TransLink with a fury equivalent to a thousand students trying to access course registration when SIS is down.

A healthy cardiovascular system is one of the most beneficial components of overall health; everything you do requires the pumping of blood and the transfer of oxygen. By improving your cardiovascular system, everyday tasks as simple as walking become easier. A lack of physical activity and a poor diet have been proven to lead to cardiovascular disease with symptoms such as clogged arteries or chest pains. Activities such as running, swimming, cycling, or dancing are both fun and physically engaging and can aid in improving your cardio. Running for a missed bus and catching it at the next stop is honestly one of the most rewarding acts of awesome you can achieve.

Bad circulation: 

Winters spent on Burnaby Mountain seem more fitting for Sherpas than for students. Even when you’re gearing up properly with a warm jacket and boots, you might still feel the cruel punch of winter’s frigid fist. Combine that with standing around waiting for the bus, and you have a good recipe for not being able to feel your toes or fingers by the time you get home.

Proper circulation helps regulate our temperature, and good blood flow heats us up. Yet this is countered by the fact your blood vessels inevitably shrink in the cold. In order to help circulate blood back up from your outer extremities, your muscles assist your blood vessels when they’re moving and flexing. By working out your muscles and heart, and increasing the size and density of your capillaries, veins, and arteries, you can keep feeling your feet longer — even after having your sneakers soaked by snow, ice, and water.

Chronic lumbar spasm (AKA: back pain): 

You’re hunched over a computer all day and studying at your desk late into the night; you have back pains and poor posture — does this sound familiar? After a while, these poor habits will take a toll on your back. Your lower back muscles will weaken, your spine will be stressed from being curved over all the time, and the pain starts to set in. Hunched shoulders follow, then neck strain and crappy flexibility. You started university at five-foot-nine and now, somehow, you’re five foot a-lot-less-than-nine.

Your spine supports many of your bones and muscles, so it would be wise to protect it. For a young student, back pain brings forth the image of an ailing senior citizen, but the fact is that like many health problems, prevention starting at a young age goes a long way. Exercising your lower back with squats and dead lifts will help with strengthening those poor back muscles. If you believe that you should avoid such activities because you have a weak back, don’t worry. With proper form, starting with a low weight, and working on your flexibility (and obviously warming up prior to exercise), there are minimal injury risks.

 

Hopefully this article encourages you to either stick to your New Year’s resolutions about exercising more, or start. Maybe it doesn’t feel like you have any time with a part-time job, a full course load, and a thriving social life you intend to uphold. But aren’t there some changes you could make? Instead of taking a one-hour study break watching Dexter, couldn’t you go for a quick run? Do sit ups on your bed, or yoga at home? SFU offers free gym passes for students, with a variety of machines and equipment (not to mention eye candy) to help you maintain active through university. Maybe you feel like you can’t afford the time, but what you can’t afford even more is low concentration, low energy levels, mood swings, and aches and pains that could possibly escalate to more serious ailments. Live healthier and live better; don’t grieve over something you could have easily avoided when it’s too late.

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