During the fall 2022 term, UBC’s fitness centres — ARC and Birdcoop — saw a 25 per cent decrease in average daily gym attendance in the exam period.

While the decrease may be partially due to fewer students being present on campus at that time, many students indicated that increased stress played a role in how frequently they exercised.

Kinesiology professor and public health researcher Dr. Guy Faulkner said, “During exam time is perhaps the best time that you should be exercising, and that it’s not time lost to studying, but time exercising, that could actually improve the efficiency of your studying and your learning.”

For first-year grad student and T-Birds track and field athlete Kiana Gibson, life revolves around training and school. She said that these activities complement each other and give her balance.

“I kind of see them as breaks from one another,” she said.

Faulkner sees physical activity and mental health as a virtuous cycle. He said when you are physically active, your mental health thrives and, at the same time, having good psychological wellness helps you be more physically active.

Second-year arts student Kevin McKay-Barona said working out is a good way to gauge how he is doing mentally.

“It’s an objectively miserable thing,” he said. “If I can’t motivate myself to do that, I definitely can’t motivate myself to do schoolwork.”

Second-year political science student Michael Vento said exercising helps clear his mind.

“When I go into the gym, sometimes things aren’t going the way I want or it’s cloudy and raining outside. And I have this gray filter on,” he said. “But as soon as I exercise and as soon as I leave, I always feel better.”

Canadian physical activity guidelines recommend that people aged 18-64 get 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

“Sometimes during normal term time, you accumulate some of [those minutes] at the gym,” said Faulkner. “But then perhaps during exam time, that’s when you’re being more conscious about … getting off the bus a couple of stops earlier and walking the rest of the way, going for a walk in between classes.”

Gibson said she incorporates physical activity into studying by repeating her notes aloud on walks or working at a standing table.

“I think it’s so much more realistic when we can celebrate small movement that makes you feel good,” she said.

Second-year international economics student Savindya Mudadeniya recently started doing group fitness classes at the UBC fitness centres and has really been enjoying them. She said she tends to exercise less during exam periods, but goes back to her usual exercise schedule once exams are finished.

“Three weeks even a month isn’t actually a long time for you to lose a lot of progress,” she said. “I don’t think people should get disheartened by it.”

Faulkner added that occasional lapses in your exercise regimen are understandable.

“I think we shouldn’t be too self-critical of these temporary lapses … as long as we have those intentions to resume when some kind of other pressing priority has passed,” he said.

While December 8–9 had an average of 1,176 daily visits, the number increased to pre-exam levels of 1,522 visits per day in January and has maintained though February.

Faulkner said that the ‘feel good phenomenon’ we experience when we are physically active may be very important in the way we learn and are able to concentrate.

“Students who are more physically active report lower levels of psychological distress, lower levels of loneliness, higher rates of flourishing.”

Michael Vento is a contributor to The Ubyssey. He was not involved in the writing or editing of this piece.


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