Thursday, 6 June 2019

The benefits of staying physically active over summer


Summertime is a less intense period in contrast to the past academic year. For others of you who are still on placements or working on research projects, there may still be a familiar sense of structure and routine. Either way, the benefits of staying physically active could help you maintain a healthy body and mind.

“Physical activity” can include any type of exercise or prolonged movement, but other activities like diet, sleep, hobbies/interests, socialising, and summer work are essential. Finding balance between being active and other commitments and/or your academic workload can be tricky, but the rewards can be fruitful.


Regular activity

There’s good evidence that regular (physical) activity can enhance our physical and mental wellbeing, positively affecting mood, alertness, and energy levels. The key word is “regular”. Regular and consistent physical activity among other helpful activities promotes a sense of purpose and commitment towards taking care of ourselves.

Different forms of regular activity work together more effectively than individually, e.g. irregular and low-quality sleep will affect our appetite, mood and energy levels. Our bellies can become confused about when to expect food if our sleeping/eating patterns are irregular, which can impact our diet, our capacity to exercise, work, socialise, etc.

A regular balanced diet can also help your physical and mental wellbeing. Investing time in your interests and socialising with trusted people can also provide ways of maintaining a support structure and help us cope with daily challenges. Socialising can produce pleasure; working can promote satisfaction; investing time in our interests/hobbies reinforces engagement and fulfilment—all things that contribute to staying physically and psychologically well.

However, maintaining regular physical activity isn’t always straightforward or easy.


Know your limitations

Putting too much pressure on yourself to stick inflexibly to a routine can backfire: unplanned events do happen, and we must find ways to adapt, which may involve postponing our planned activities without being destructively self-critical if we feel we’ve failed. Knowing your limitations is also important, so setting realistic goals plays a crucial role in maintaining wellbeing.

Prolonged worrying if you’re not able to sleep or exercise enough can cause anxiety, self-critical thoughts, and feeling low. Developing an understanding and tolerant way of being with yourself can enhance your resilience and help you recover from difficult or unfavourable circumstances.


Get support from those around you

You may find it difficult to socialise over the summer if, for example, many of your friends are not around. There may be some classes or activities at UH or around your local area, so it might be worth checking some of those out.

Sometimes you may not be in the mood to be physically active. Could you find ways to listen and understand what you need? In some situations, trying to be active even if you’re not feeling good can help lift your mood. Sometimes we may need to be active first even if our minds and bodies aren’t in the right frame of mind to do so. You can also reach out and speak to someone you trust: friends, family, your tutor, and you’re welcome to contact Student Wellbeing about any concerns you’re having.

Peter De Santis Counsellor University of Hertfordshire


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