PA Student: Why It Is Important to Stay Active & Healthy During the Semester
First off, exercise helps us de-stress and relieve tension which is exactly what we need during the semester. We have all of this extra built up stress during the Didactic year, so what better way to release all that stress than exercise! Even though it might not be some student’s main focus over the semester, we all need to make sure that we stay healthy even in times of high stress. During Didactic year you are sedentary for most of the day. With that being said, it is pretty easy to put on some extra pounds during the semester. Unfortunately during my Didactic year I put on a solid 10 lbs of fat during the semester.
As it did for me, Didactic year puts you out of your normal routine. You have to dedicate so much more time to classes and studying and practicing clinical skills that you will feel like you won’t even have time to breath during the semester let alone exercise. I usually try to lift least 4 days/week and some kind of cardio on at least 3 days/week, and thats when I have some free time. I cannot imagine trying to workout every day as a Didactic year student but looking back there were definitely a few days a week where I could have squeezed in a workout. I think for most, it would be difficult to get into an intense lifting schedule during Didactic year but perhaps you would just be able to do a few days of full body type exercises and cardio when possible.
If you ever find the time to get a quick workout in then you should. Even if you don’t feel like it, just start listening to some “pump up” music to get yourself in the mood to workout. You won’t have a lot of time to choose when to exercise during the semester so when you have the time you should definitely jump on the opportunity. A good time to workout would be right after class on a day that isn’t as busy as usual when you are looking to get your mind off of things for an hour and let some stress out. I get very irritable if I do not workout regularly as that is how I let off a lot of my steam so, for me, the best time to workout is right after class as a break.
There are some ways to stay active during the days when you don’t have a lot of free time and can’t make it to the gym. For example, I really enjoy going on a quick walk around the block or maybe longer as a study break. This was much better than just staying sedentary and browsing Facebook. Also, study breaks that are used online or on your phone tend to allow you to waste more time than usual. For example, every time I went on Reddit as a study break I would tell myself “Oh just one more video” or “Just one more funny meme to look at” and before I knew it a whole hour was wasted just sitting on my phone. Walking as a study break might be difficult during the winter months in snowy places but maybe you have a treadmill at home or that dusty stationary bike in your office that you would be able to utilize. When at school, you should use the stairs whenever possible. Yes, the elevator may be tempting but you need to get the blood pumping again after sitting through that neverending lecture on CHF. It is also a good idea to walk around between classes. If you have to use to restroom or fill up your water between classes then you should try and walk to a further bathroom or water fountain or even just go down a story so you would be able to get a walk in as well. Even if you don’t have to use the restroom or fill up your water bottle, still just get up and move around. Even ask a friend to walk with you for that 10 minute break might make it more fun. If you buy lunch then you should try walking to places around campus and getting lunch there if that is an option. If you pack your lunch then take it to that nearby quiet bench or park and eat lunch there if the weather is nice enough.
In addition to exercise, you should also try to eat healthy during the semester. Do not eat junk food like potato chips and candy while studying, they will just make you feel like junk moments later. When you do snack make sure that you remember serving sizes!! Thats great that you ate that bag of almonds as a snack. . . except that bag had about 5 servings in it so it really isn’t that great of a snack anymore. I have a food scale at home which makes it really easy to quickly weigh out a serving size of my snack, put it in a baggie, and bring it with me to school. Have a few healthy, quick, and easy meals in mind for school days. My go to would always be a veggie quinoa bowl with hot sauce. If you don’t mind eating the same thing for a couple of days you should try cooking healthy casseroles or something on a Sunday night so during the week you could just pop one in the oven while studying and have dinner for a few days that week. Try to avoid drive throughs, yes it might sound like a good idea in the moment but shortly after you finish eating that food your body is going to hate you. Also, don’t go out to eat on study days. It is not quicker than cooking at home and it can get expensive if you go out enough. One last thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to eat such a huge meal that you just feel like falling asleep after when you really should be studying. Keep your meals light with some snacks in between so you can avoid that post meal food coma feeling.
If you have any ideas for quick and healthy meals or a good, fast paced workout for during the semester please share!