The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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When stressed, exercise

January was a crazy month for many music students at SMU because we began the semester and launched an opera at the same time. After a normal day of classes, many of us were in rehearsal for five hours. For me, the first activity to be cut was exercise.

By no means am I a gym rat, but I rely on physical activity and exercise for my physical and mental health. I am never more aware of this than when I stop exercising. I feel more tired and negative, sleep poorly and usually have worse allergies, as well. Unfortunately, when resources are limited, it is all too easy to cut exercise.

Our education system seems to work this way too. The recession has hit many people hard and school districts haven’t escaped. At the moment, Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania is at risk of running out of money to pay teachers. Physical education programs are particularly at risk in the U.S. as school districts try to reduce costs and improve test scores.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 60 percent of middle and high school aged students do not engage in organized physical activity outside of school. States with the highest levels of physical inactivity corresponds with a high frequency of diabetes and obesity diagnoses.

At the same time, more and more evidence indicates that we need physical activity in our lives. Correlations have been reported between childhood activity levels and adult activity levels later in life. Risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other dangerous diseases can be reduced with exercise.

Ironically, physical activity also improves blood flow and oxygen to the whole body, including the brain. This means that students can concentrate better and longer if they have regular exercise. Activity also stimulates the brain to retain memory and releases endorphins that can reduce anxiety and depression. When school districts cut gym classes, they are not only negatively affecting their students’ health both now and in the future, but also taking away a powerful stress reliever and mental stimulant.

Generally, research has shown that regular exercise can improve students’ grade point averages, increase retention, improve emotional health and lower the risk of disease. So if school district officials and lawmakers see the need to cut gym classes, they should at least come up with an alternative for physical activity.

Students should certainly be educated about the positive effects of physical activity. In addition, low cost recess breaks could be implemented with programs to encourage active organized sports. Finally, after-school programs that incorporate exercise could be very beneficial.

A small workout does wonders for my stress level and ability to concentrate, and I know that other people feel the same way. Exercise also helps me to unwind at night and actually sleep. In high school, I was very inactive. I started running right before my freshman year here at SMU, but I felt uneasy in the gym because I was afraid of looking foolish while learning how to use equipment. My Wellness II class at SMU helped me overcome my fear of using some of the weight machines in the gym.

Today, I try to go to the gym a few times a week. I think it is a very healthy part of my life, but I would not have added exercise to my lifestyle without some encouragement from friends, family and most importantly, school.

Paul is the opinion editor. He is a junior majoring in voice performance.

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