Move your body to help your mind

18 February 2021

Physical and mental health are closely linked, but why is this exactly, and why is it important to get moving? Students’ Union UCL Project Active Coordinator Bikram Bains writes about why it’s a good idea to incorporate physical activity into our everyday lives.

A woman stands on a rock in a yoga pose looking out into the sunset

Studying for a degree comes with many challenges and pressures, and this is amplified amidst a pandemic. The pressures of trying to navigate life amongst various restrictions alongside a degree can be overwhelming. When you feel overwhelmed, it can be a real struggle to push yourself to implement healthy habits like exercising regularly.

Incorporating physical activity and exercise into our routines can help you manage stress. It can also support mental resilience, so you are better prepared to deal with adversity and uncertainty. Improved mental resilience can help when dealing with academic workload and adjusting to new learning environments.

Exercise to improve your grades

Exercise is also linked with improved academic attainment. It not only improves cardiovascular health but also cerebrovascular health by helping preserve and improve brain function which leads to better learning, memory and cognitive function. In addition, exercise plays a significant role in supporting your wellbeing and managing mental health problems. Poor mental health can negatively impact academic performance and exercise is proven to be an effective treatment for two common mental health problems faced by students, anxiety and depression.

Regular exercise can help us protect our mental health and overall wellbeing, and this in turn helps us better navigate our lives and succeed in meeting our goals and objectives, like submitting coursework in time and getting the grade we want or acing a presentation to your peers.  

Exercise to improve your mood

Moreover, regular exercise can improve mood, sleep, energy levels and mental alertness as well as boost confidence. So, whether it’s running marathons, lifting weights or dancing in your room, exercise can improve your body, brain and mind.

Yet despite all these benefits and more, we can often fail to prioritise our physical wellbeing when faced with looming deadlines, assignments and coursework. It can often be easier to forgo physical activity for more hours studying, or Netflix marathons - neither is conducive to better grades! Spending all day sitting and studying for long hours in the pursuit of knowledge can have diminishing returns and lead to burnout.  To avoid this, it is important to schedule regular breaks and include some form of physical activity or exercise that gets your heart pumping to help your mind and body de-stress and feel the benefits of moving.

Exercise with UCL

UCL offers all students free online exercises through Project Active which are designed to help students incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. The schedule of weekly classes organised by the Union’s Project Active initiative aims to remove barriers to participation so it’s easier to get moving even when you might not feel like it. No special equipment or activewear is required to join and qualified instructors adapt classes for all fitness levels making them beginner friendly.

Moving your body is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mind and your academic career.

Bikram Bains, Students' Union UCL