The Daily Gamecock

Column: Physical activity can benefit your brain, body, academic success

Prioritizing your mental and physical health by getting active this school year can result in greater academic success.  

There are many benefits for students when they are physically active, including the positive effects it has on one's physical and mental health. However, the benefits physical activity has on academic success are a benefit more students should take advantage of. 

"Yes, there is definitely a positive relationship between regular physical activity and academic success," Jennifer O'Neill, clinical assistant professor of exercise science, said. "We know this because there have been many research studies out there that have studied the amount of physical activity and its association or correlation with different types of academic success." 

Not only can physical activity benefit students academically, but it has also proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, along with helping with stress management. Physical activity also increases focus and time management, according to O'Neill. 

Getting active in the gym creates an environment for students to take a break from the outside stressors they face and focus on creating healthy habits and a productive lifestyle. Releasing energy and increasing the level of endorphins positively impact a student's academic results.

The scientific evidence behind physical activity is astronomical. There are a lot of benefits to the human body, and it's more than just the release of endorphins. 

"As soon as you wake up and start moving your body around ... your brain starts to be stimulated," Myrna Brady, general manager at Rescu Wellness in New York, said. "When in this groove, their brain and their body is so much more alert to be productive throughout the day." 

Though there is science behind the many reasons to be active, it can be intimidating to try something new such as going to the gym. Reasons behind this doubt could be due to lack of knowledge, peer pressure or even outfit choices and how one presents themselves, but the positive effects outweigh the intimidation one could feel. 

"You focus on how you feel and when you start to feel better, you start to do better and you want to be better," Kristen Massey, group fitness instructor at Lifetime Fitness, said. "Everything else in your life falls into place, and it's so much better." 

Caroline Staff, a fourth-year, international studies student, who works out at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, knows her physical health relates to her academic success. 

"When I came to the gym, I saw my academic grades go up," Staff said. "Days I don't go to the gym, I find myself  lazier and more sluggish with my work. And the days I do go to the gym, I find myself productive and not wasting time."

This sense of productivity is essential in creating a healthy lifestyle. Getting active can look different for everyone, from going for a walk or run, to attending a Group X class, riding a bike or weight lifting. 

Even when applying for jobs, those with experience in physical activity and sports have been reported to be preferred for managerial positions.

"I remember our CEO coming to us and saying, 'I would like for you to look for anyone who was a captain of a team,'" Brady said.  

Physical activity can serve as a beneficial stress reliever during a chaotic school year. Not only does this form of stress relief release endorphins, but it can also enhance academic success. 

Students should partake in a form of stress relief that provides a good sweat, a smile and — most importantly —can help you in school.