Finding Time to Exercise as a College Student—and Actually Enjoy It

College would be hard even if you had a feeding tube, a body and muscles that never atrophied, and you never had to sleep. But we exist in physical bodies that need time and attention, and exercise is one of the most difficult pieces of that necessary upkeep and maintenance. We’ve been told over and over again, “eat right, exercise, get enough sleep,” and sometimes those components of wellness can feel like additional obligations, on top of assignments and other responsibilities. Plus, an alarming amount of information and resources ostensibly concerned with “health” actually focus more appearances, and there’s a lot of controversy around fitness and exercise. I could go on about how flawed the fitness industry is, but that would require another blog post or 20. Suffice to say, I’m not here to push #bodygoals and #fitspo, which tend to emphasize appearance more than the real health benefits of working out.

But on a mental, physical, and emotional level, there are other, better reasons to pull on your spandex and get sweaty. According to the American Intercontinental University, exercise stimulates brain cell development, increases memory retention, and improves focus and concentration—hello, GPA boost! It’s also great for fighting homework fatigue. I’ll often take 20 minutes out of essay writing, get in some High Intensity Intervals at the gym, and come back with my brain refreshed and ready to get back in essay-mode. The University of Michigan also notes that exercise can increase energy and reduce psychiatric symptoms. And as I explained in my last blog post, exercise improves your sleep. It’s also a huge factor in relieving stress and boosting your mood, since endorphins—chemicals released during exercise—have a naturally calming effect on the body.


You’re probably thinking, “Okay, we get it—we definitely ought to exercise. But when? And how?!” Fear not, Padawans, help is on the way!

1. Choose activities you actually enjoy

If you dread exercise, of course you won’t be inclined to make time for it. You live in one of the most happening cities on the planet—go explore! There are so many locations, groups, and types of movement to get into, from Capoeira to rock climbingrunning, dance, yoga & more yoga, The Rise NYC, pole classes, and so much more. Exercise is a treat. It can be a great way to engage with other people, and it’s also showing yourself you care. It’s an opportunity to take time out of your day to shut off your brain from everything else.

2. Think of exercise not as “working out,” but “moving and sweating”

The term “work out” is laden with all the pressures of our flawed fitness industry. Instead, focus on the actual activity you’re doing, not how many calories it burns or whether you have buns of steel yet. When I was training to be a professional ballet dancer, I didn’t care about having visible abs. I cared about how high I could jump, how many turns I could do, and how long I could balance for; the abs were just a side effect. Your “work outs” will be way more rewarding if you’re focused on climbing harder routes at the rock gym, nailing that dance sequence, holding that yoga pose longer, getting faster or going farther in your runs, and generally just enjoying your chosen form of moving and sweating.

3. You don’t actually need as much as you think you do

Exercise can seem like a burden if you’re under the impression that you need to do it for hours on end. If you want to subject yourself to the torture of training like a VS angel, that’s your prerogative. For the rest of us lay people, 150 minutes a week will give you enough to reap the health benefits—that’s the same amount of time as a 2 and a half hour movie. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say you can even do just 10 minutes at a time. Small things like taking the stairs add up! When I hit a wall studying, it helps to plank for 30 seconds, go for a walk, or do some yoga poses. Check out CDC’s site for a great list of how much exercise (and what types) you need for different fitness goals.

4. Consider High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) defines HIIT as “a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods.” Some of the best advantages for students are that it increases metabolism, you can do it anytime, anyplace, and you don’t need any equipment! Check out these quick HIIT workouts for beginners. If you find you enjoy this type of exercise, look into getting a heart rate monitor to get the most out of your HIIT.

5. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Your main job right now is being a student, not training for the Olympics! If you end up having to skip the gym/run/dance class to finish up an assignment now and then, it’s not slacking; it’s prioritizing.

So if you’re reading this… close your laptop, pull on some gym shorts, and go get sweaty!

By Sofia Lerner

Sofia Lerner is a Campus Clipper publishing intern who is studying English as a senior at NYU. Passionate about literature, dance, and wellness, Sofia aspires to help the arts thrive and help others pursue healthy lifestyles. For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services. 

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.



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