Don’t sweat it...top tips for staying fit and healthy during exam season
Medic and fitness blogger Hazel Wallace says concentrate on your body and your mind will thank you
Hazel Wallace: it’s important to have some social time to spend with friends.
No exam is stress-free. Even the word “exam” instantly causes most of us to sweat. As revision slowly takes over, we often find ourselves neglecting our health; we pull all nighters, we survive on coffee, and a trip to the local takeaway becomes a daily occurrence.
The effort of thinking about going to the gym or even getting outside is often too much for some of us. However, by neglecting our health in this way we are actually putting far more stress on the mind and the body.
There are a few simple habits we can adopt to help maintain a healthy lifestyle during stressful times, such as exam season. Not only will staying active help you avoid piling on the pounds, but it may actually improve the overall quality of your revision and even your exam performance.
Sweat it outIf you live within a reasonable distance from your college try walking, jogging or cycling. Not only will you squeeze in a workout, but you will save time looking for parking too.
Kickstarting your day with a short run or a power walk will help to wake you up and feel more energised – maybe listen to a motivational speech or song to fire you up even more.
If you think you don’t have time, turn off the TV – you can reclaim many hours this way! If you find you are struggling to find time to exercise, schedule in your work-outs like you would any appointment. Invest in a good diary and plan your work-outs around your study schedule.
Buddy upOn top of balancing revision and a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to have some social time to spend with friends. Instead of catching up over dinner and drinks, suggest a fun workout class such as Pilates. This will help take your mind off exams for an hour or two and it also means you have something to look forward to at the end of the day.
Go tee totalThe morning after a few drinks is unlikely to make you feel like going to the library or hitting the gym, but rather slumped on the sofa clutching a tub of Ben and Jerrys. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to avoid alcohol throughout the study period so that you can stay on track of both your revision and healthy diet.
Brain foodOur brain requires a good balance of omega 3 and omega 6 to function at its best. Omega 3 and omega 6 are essential fatty acids, which means our bodies cannot make them and we need to get some help from our diet.
These healthy fats make up an essential component of the membrane of nerve cells and actually make up 20 per cent of the brain’s dry weight. Load up on nuts, seeds and oily fish such as salmon and mackerel for the richest sources of these brain-boosting fats.
For your snacks, choose fruit, raw vegetables, hummus, natural popcorn and nuts. These foods are nutrient dense. Avoid processed “healthy” snacks such as cereal bars or flapjacks as these foods are surprisingly high in sugar and fat, and very calorie dense.
Fail to prepare, prepare to failPrepping and cooking meals takes time and effort so choosing ready meals such as pizzas, pasta and takeaways is often the easiest option. However, we can save time – and money – by prepping for the week at once. Sunday is the perfect day to batch cook your meals and separate them into Tupperware boxes. Keep it simple by roasting a couple of chicken breasts or salmon fillets to have for lunch and dinner.
Refrigerate what you need for the next two to three days and freeze the rest, taking it out as and when you need it.
Cut the caffeineIt’s easy for coffee and energy drinks to become our sole fluid intake during exam periods. However, although these stimulants give us a boost of energy, too much can actually work against us. Excessive caffeine can cause headaches, anxiety, poor concentration and sleep disturbance. If you don’t want to give it up completely, try cutting your intake by half and having some herbal tea or fruit-infused water instead.
Chill outIt’s essential that we unwind at the end of a busy day at the library, or after sitting an exam, but it’s often hard to justify it to ourselves. As a society we equate success with more work and less sleep, with people often boasting about pulling all-nighters coming up to exams. However, quality is always greater than quantity, and if you put in a couple of solid hours of revision during the day, you totally deserve an hour to chill out before bed. Light some candles, have a bath or read a book (not a textbook) – anything to help you switch off before bedtime.
Become a yogiYoga is an amazing form of exercise for both the body and the mind. Yoga incorporates mindfulness and meditation which forces us to engage with the here and now and switch off from the outside world. The fact that it is a form of exercise is an added bonus not only for our physical health, but also our mental health as it causes the release of endorphins, aka happy hormones.
Food and fitness blogger Hazel Wallace is the girl behind The Food Medic. From Dublin, she is a full-time medical student in Cardiff and is due to finish her graduate degree in medicine (MBBcH) in July. Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat : @thefoodmedic Facebook : The Food Medic Website: hazelwallace.co.uk Mindful students: Education