Best of luck to the students who are taking Semester 1 mid-semester examinations. It is crucial to prioritize your health during this period, so make sure to take breaks from studying and take care of yourself. High levels of stress are common during exams, but you can reduce them by staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular exercise.
Did you know we have multiple gym options on campus? There's the Club Lime gym in Kambri and the Club Lime pool, and the ANU Sport centre. ANU Sport not only operates a gym on campus but also hires out facilities and runs short courses, such as roller skating and martial arts, to help students remain active. Additionally, they are affiliated with 33 sporting clubs, run social sport every semester, and support students to represent ANU against other universities or at elite competitions.
Ria Ronghe is the Marketing and Events Coordinator for ANU Sport, she is also studying a Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics double degree. She is very familiar with the stress that exam season brings and uses gym sessions at ANU Sport to manage it.
"I find exercise is an amazing outlet to reduce stress during exam season. It helps you get all the nervous energy out, so you have the mental capacity to get some work done. I love either a stretch (ANU Sport offers Yoga as well as Stretch & Flex classes) or some cardio (shout out to ANU Sport's RPM - indoor cycling classes)."
To get some scientifically backed advice and tips, On Campus spoke with two health experts from the ANU College of Health and Medicine: Kathleen Miles, a Lecturer of Human Nutrition, and Nicole Vargas, a Lecturer in Exercise Physiology. They shared valuable insights on how students can use exercise as a tool to improve their performance during this exam season.
"Exercise can help reduce stress levels, boost mood, and improve cognitive function. Even a short 10-15 minute walk or stretch break can be beneficial."
Kathleen and Nicole said this is something every student can easily incorporate into their routine.
"For students who aren't as active, going for a walk can provide several benefits that can positively impact their academic and personal lives, including improving focus and concentration, reducing stress and anxiety, boosting creativity, and enhancing learning and memory. Walking can also provide a much-needed break from technology, which can be mentally and emotionally exhausting for students."
How can students use exercise to manage stress during exam time?
Exercise can be very helpful for managing stress during exams for various reasons. Exercise provides an outlet and helps to get blood moving around the body and brain. During exams, people might feel anxious or be putting a lot of hours into studying, but getting up and moving around can help to reduce the anxiety and cognitive load, allowing people to come back fresher to do further study. There are a lot of health benefits of just going for a walk in nature* or meeting a friend even to do a brisk walk around campus.
How can exercise help students during exam time?
Regular physical activity (at least 20 min of aerobic exercise 3-4 times per week) is believed to act as a stress-buffer whereby anxiety leading into exams is reduced* . Regular exercise also provides co-benefits of increasing confidence and providing a 'time-out'. This time-out hypothesis suggests that time away from studying, while performing exercise, can have significant beneficial calming effects, more so than when people engage in exercise while continuing to study or think about the exams coming up, particularly in highly anxious individuals*. Overall, most research has studied the effects of aerobic exercise and more recently, mind-body exercise such as yoga and tai chi and have found very beneficial effects for reducing stress and coping during stressful tasks better.
What impact can it have on the brain, memory, focus and sleep?
Exercise is very important for maintaining brain health and improving memory focus and sleep. Exercise promotes neuroplasticity - new connections within the brain and new brain cells. Exercise can be particularly beneficial for improving cognitive function and memory by priming and optimising molecular functions that underpin memory retention and processing*. Exercise can also improve the quality of sleep by increasing the amount of deep sleep and reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. Better sleep helps concentration by allowing the brain to consolidate and process information acquired during the day when studying.
What's the benefit of something low key like a walk (for students that aren't as active)?
For students who aren't as active, going for a walk can provide several benefits that can positively impact their academic and personal lives, including improving focus and concentration, reducing stress and anxiety, boosting creativity, and enhancing learning and memory. Walking can also provide a much-needed break from technology, which can be mentally and emotionally exhausting for students. Overall, walking is a simple and accessible way to incorporate physical activity into a busy schedule and improve overall health and well-being.
Any food tips?
During exam time, it's important for students to eat a balanced and healthy diet that can provide them with the necessary nutrients and energy to perform at their best. Some foods that can be particularly beneficial for students during exam time include whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and oats; fruits and vegetables; nuts and seeds; and lean proteins such as chicken, fish, or tofu. Staying hydrated is also essential for optimal brain function, and students should aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and decreased cognitive function.
It's important to avoid foods that are high in sugar, caffeine, or processed ingredients, as these can cause energy crashes and affect concentration and focus negatively. Additionally, eating regular, balanced meals throughout the day can help maintain energy levels and prevent overeating or snacking on unhealthy foods.
How can students take care of their health while studying?
Taking care of one's health is essential, especially during exam time when stress levels can be high. Here are some ways that students can take care of their health while studying:
1. Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is crucial for overall health and well-being. Students should aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night to help restore energy levels and promote mental clarity.
2. Eat a balanced diet: A healthy, balanced diet can help provide the necessary nutrients and energy to fuel the brain and body. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help support optimal brain function and reduce stress.
3. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is important for maintaining hydration levels and promoting cognitive function. Students should aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.
4. Take breaks: Taking regular breaks from studying can help reduce stress levels and prevent burnout. Students should take breaks every hour or so and engage in activities that they enjoy, such as going for a walk or reading a book.
5. Exercise: Exercise can help reduce stress levels, boost mood, and improve cognitive function. Even a short 10-15 minute walk or stretch break can be beneficial.
6. Practice stress management techniques: Exam time can be stressful, and it's important to have effective stress management techniques to help cope with stress. Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are all great ways to reduce stress levels.
Get involved with ANU Sport
Group Fitness: ANU Sport offers daily FREE Group Fitness Classes to students
Facility Hire: We also hire a number of facilities to students for free before 2pm
Gym: Students can access a free 7-Day Trial to our gym at any time by asking reception or heading to our website. Memberships are also discounted around 30% for students, with our cheapest membership starting at $8 per week
Clubs: Lastly, students can sign up for any of our sport clubs at a cheaper rate than non-students
Good luck with your exams!