Despite the benefits of working up a sweat, when life gets busy students at the University of Miami must prioritize their time. Unfortunately, exercise is often the first thing fall by the wayside.
Understandably, finishing a school project is more important than completing a cardio circuit. However, achieving academically and maintaining a regular exercise routine are not mutually exclusive, despite the beliefs of many students.
Sophomore Nancy Oben, a member of the Miami Motion dance team, fits exercise into her schedule through team practices and dance classes.
“Working out keeps you sane,” Oben said. “If school is overwhelming, you need a release. You don’t have to think how you got a C on that paper; you can just dance and it’s okay.”
Nevertheless, Oben finds that school comes before fitness when times get hectic.
“I tend to get overwhelmed,” she explained. “Especially in college it’s hard, because you always have something to go to, or a paper or project comes up.”
Tony Musto, a certified exercise specialist and associate director for fitness at the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center, offers advice for students who often feel a time crunch.
“Its important not to have the all or nothing attitude,” he said. “A lot of times people get the opinion that I have this appointment or this test that I have to study for; I’m not going to be able to do my routine, so I’m not going to do anything… They have to understand that something is better than nothing.”
Musto recommends that students pressed for time should make the most of the spare minutes they can devote to exercise.
“You can offset the duration of your cardiovascular routine by increasing how hard you work,” he said. “A lot of the machines have interval programs on them, that allow you to work really, really hard and then relax for a bit. A general rule of thumb… is to do one minute of high intensity, with two minutes of a moderate low-intensity recovery.”
High-intensity intervals allow students to push themselves harder, but to still have time to catch their breath. This concentrated routine allows for greater changes in cardiovascular fitness and burns a considerable number of calories, even after students have finished their workout.
“You should always pick the machine you’re most comfortable with,” Musto explained. “But if you really want the nitty gritty, I would stick to a stepmill or a treadmill because they support your weight…which tends to burn more calories than you would when you’re just sitting on a bike or on an elliptical trainer, where there’s no real resistance.”
However, Musto noted the important factors students should consider before they decide to exercise: amount of sleep deprivation, diet, and stress levels.
“When you work out, you’re actually breaking down your body,” he said. “What happens when you rest, is that your body adapts, recovers and builds itself stronger… In addition to that, with stress you produce a hormone called cortisol, which also promotes muscle breakdown.”
“When you have inadequate sleep and inadequate nutrition, you don’t provide the nutrients or the recovery time for your body to adapt,” he said. “And now you’re working out again, and you’re breaking yourself down even further.”
Also referred to as over training, signs of this ailment can include difficulty sleeping, feeling weaker during and after workouts, and not seeing a progression in cardiovascular fitness levels after exercising regularly. Musto warns as a result, students might suffer increased fatigue until their bodies receive the proper nutrients and rest, allowing the recovery period to occur.
“Basically what’s happening is you’re doing too much and your body is looking at it like a threat,” Musto said. “It’s actually damaging more than it is helping.”
Nevertheless, in moderation exercise can ultimately have a positive effect on busy, stressed out students.
“I [exercise] when I have a lot of work,” senior Sune Smith said. “It makes me feel better and I can think more clearly… I stopped exercising for a month or two, and I found I was more stressed out and wasn’t as good with time management.”
When Smith finds she is tense as a result of exams or social issues, she knows it is in her best interest to make time for the gym.
“I use the machines that are hardest for me, so I can really sweat it out,” she said. “Before the GRE, I definitely hit the Stairmaster.”