It’s well known that university students in general have quite a static lifestyle – we go to lectures, where we sit and listen, we go to study groups where we sit to read, we go home and study at our desks. If you have the time to be a member of a sports team or go to the gym, then you might be able to squeeze into your day just a little bit of motion, but a large percentage of our days are spent sat on our bums! This undoubtedly leads to jokes from family members about how you’re likely to put on weight or forget how to use your legs. A commonly donned expression in my family is that of a “lazy student”!
But in all seriousness, it is a common worry of first year students that they’re going to pile on the pounds once they no longer spend the majority of their days being active. But luckily there are things you can do to avoid this…
It’s a well known fact that despite only accounting for approximately 2% of a humans body mass, the brain uses about 20% of our energy sources. Unfortunately this does not mean that we burn more calories when working our brains more, during study sessions or lectures. It is true that when a certain area of the brain requires more energy it will burn more glucose, but the overall effects on your weight loss will be next to nothing.
This does not mean, however, that you are unable to burn additional calories whilst studying for an exam or completely an assignment:
- Sit up straight – it is said that sitting up straight helps you burn twice as many calories as you would have burnt if you had been slouching. Keeping your back straight and your tummy tucked in engages your abs and the muscles in your lower back, helping you not only keep off the pounds, but also keep good posture.
- Fidget – Now I’m not saying that you should fidget so much during class that you distract your classmates, but little movements like clenching your fist or lifting your heel off of the floor can help you burn up to to 350 extra calories per day.
- Turn your “at home” study sessions into a game – I’ve already talked about how exercising can help you feel more motivated in previous articles, but it also has the added benefit of keeping you fit and healthy. Try studying a page or two of your notes and then getting up and doing 10 of whatever exercise you enjoy doing. Let’s say you did 10 squats every two pages studied of a 30 page chapter, this would mean over the course of an hour you would do 150 squats and burn an average of 60 additional calories (based on a 135 pound person).
- Standing and pacing – Place your book on your desk, move your chair out of the way and study whilst standing up. Whenever you feel your feet begin to ache pace around the room, whilst repeating to yourself what you’ve just read. Not only is this an effective way to study (read and repeat), but it could also help you to burn up to an additional 40 calories an hour. Multiply that over the amount of hours you spend studying a day and you’ll probably find you’ve burnt off that chocolate bar you probably shouldn’t have had with lunch!
- Buy an exercise ball – swap out your desk chair for an exercise ball. It has the benefit of still being comfy to sit on while you work and making you exercise without even realising it. Exercise/stability balls help improve your balance and constantly engage your abs which leads to more calories burnt.
I hope this helps anyone struggling with their weight as a student. Remember that there are a list of other things that can help with weight loss that aren’t study related, such as laughing, walking, taking the stairs and high intensity interval training.
I know that lack of time is a big problem for a lot of students, especially those who have work on top of their university course, but exercising not only helps to keep you fit, but also to keep you motivated and happy!