Do Sweaty Students Make Better Students? The Connection Between Exercise and Better Grades

By Mathew Jade

It’s no secret that college students have jam-packed schedules. There are classes to attend, assignments to submit and socialization to be done. It’s hard enough to find time to sleep, let alone squeeze in regular exercise. You may ask why it’s important – there will be plenty of time to get fit once college is over, right?  However, what I was taught during my MBA, and what has long been taught in all top-notch business schools, is now being backed by scientific evidence: Regular exercise does not just keep you physically fit but also provides important cognitive benefits that can help you perform better in class – or in pretty much any setting where you need to use your brain cells.

Healthy Lifestyle Seamless Pattern

So how exactly does exercise help? Let me elaborate

  • Exercise acts as a stimulant for brain cell development

For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence on how exercise affects brainpower. Recent experiments have proved that there is a definite relationship between exercise and improved cognitive abilities.

For example, the New York Times published the results of a study led by Justin. S. Rhodes, a psychology professor in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. His study involved running experiments on four groups of mice. The mice who were given exercise wheels had marked improvements in brainpower. Mice exercising had more neurons – that is, brain cells – than those which did not.  In addition, the mice exercising regularly had developed more complex connections between neurons, meaning they could think faster.  Substitute a treadmill for a hamster wheel, and there’s a good chance you’ll see better grades over time.

  • Exercise will help you be more focused

A Canadian school that caters to learning-disabled and ADHD children carried out an experiment in 2009, in which children exercised for 20 minutes on treadmills or exercise bikes before starting math lessons. Teachers noted a marked improvement in students’ concentration levels, information retaining capabilities, and their overall motivation to study.

  • Exercise relieves stress

We all know college is a stressful time. It’s a challenge to get enough sleep, and there’s tons of work to do. Exercise, even if it is 15 minutes a day (high intensity, enough to jack up your heart rate and breath) leads to the release of endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that keep stress at bay. So exercise can reduce stress and help you work your way through college more effectively.

Exercise is very important in college. Not only will it keep your brain sharp, but it will also help you stay physically fit. It’s common for students to suffer from the “Freshman 15” – that is, the 15 pounds freshmen pack on in the first year due to limited exercise and unhealthy diet. And following an exercise regime is something you should do for life. For example, Hong Kong business magnate Allan Zeman does 90 minutes of exercise every morning without fail; Zeman once made a U.S. president wait so he could complete his daily exercise routine.

About the author: Mathew Jade is a passionate blogger who loves to write on Economics and finance-related topics. For further updates follow @Mathew_Jade


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How to Make Sure Your Last Few Months of College are Successful

By Anne Davies

You’re close to graduating college – well done! At this stage, you’ve probably got one eye on the next phase of your life, whatever that may be. However, this is the time when the pressure is really cranked up, when subtle yet insidious dangers can creep their way into your rhythms.

To help you on your way, we’ve put together some of the things you should keep your eye out for – and the things you should ignore – as you near your post-graduation life.

Graduating soon?  Don't lose sight of your goal.

Graduating soon? Don’t lose sight of your goal.

1. Get Serious

Chances are, you’ve already put your wild college days to bed by the time you reach your senior year. However, even if that is the case you’re probably used to late nights, casual drinking, limited sense of routine, and so forth. While we’re not saying you’re going to have to live a button-down life once you enter the real world, there are some practical considerations you need to bear in mind if you’re going to be a success, and these will be best achieved if you make them part of your life while you’re still in university.

Limit Your Drinking

Everyone knows that college students drink a lot, but sometimes it’s more than just a bit of fun. The stress of exams, worrying about the future, and just plain old bad habits can cause a student to drink more than they should. If you think your drinking is becoming a problem, take a step back and seek help from your friends or support network at college. Exams are to be taken seriously, but they shouldn’t have a disproportionate effect on your well being. Equally, now is the time to put down the beer bong! You can celebrate when the final exam is handed in; it’s not worth ruining your final degree just for a few more nights of partying.

Keep a Routine

Many students have a laissez-faire attitude to their daily routine, opting to keep irregular work days and inconsistent sleeping hours. However, having a routine might just put you on a path towards greatness, with many great thinkers and businessman choosing to have a solid daily routine. As you enter your final months, try to develop a routine that you’ll be able to stick to once you leave your college – it might just be  a game-changer.

2. Don’t Stress Out About Searching for a Job

Only around 15% of students have a job lined up when they graduate, so don’t despair if you’re in the majority who don’t. While job prospects have been tough over the past few years, that’s beginning to change and there are more and more opportunities each year.

Be Patient

You’ve got many decades of work ahead of you, so don’t stress if you don’t find the perfect job within the first few months of graduation. Pick up casual work to cover your expenses in the meantime and wait for the job to come along – it might take a while, but it’ll come in the end. If you think job searching is interfering with your studies, then put if off until finals are over – you might think you’re losing an edge, but you’ll actually be doing the right thing. If you must do something, consider interning or volunteering; this way you can decide how much of your time you dedicate to work.

3. Maintain Perspective

College is important, but it’s not everything. There’s no reason to worry or stress, especially over things you cannot control. If you work hard and put the hours in, you’ll do just fine. In fact, worrying might even cause you to do worse on your exam! So try to relax, and don’t forget to have some fun along the way. It’s tempting to think your entire universe revolves around your academic performance, but it’s important to spend some time in the gym or hang with friends to remind yourself that there are other parts to your life, too. After a break from studying, you’ll go back to it with a renewed energy that will make the information more likely to stick.

College is scary, fun, and nerve-inducing – often all at the same time. While you know this as well as anyone by now, you’re entering uncharted territory when you discover that it’s soon to be over. Take your time, try to enjoy it, and don’t let niggling problems spoil what could be the adventure of a lifetime.


Looking for more tips on college success?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students.

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Is There a Right Way to Drink? A Healthy Perspective on College Drinking

By Adrienne Erin

Congratulations! You’ve finished high school. Now it’s time to head off to college. Isn’t it great to feel free? No parents and no boring home life. You’ll get to make new friends and have new experiences. And best of all, you’ll get to go to parties. What’s not to love?

It’s a given that you’re probably going to drink at least once in college. Chances are you’ve heard the pep talk about alcohol multiple times already, so you know what’s coming. But the point is: Sure, you can have fun, but it’s important to remember you’re in college to learn. Part of that learning is to gain a healthy perspective on drinking.

There’s a wrong and right way to drink. Which one will you choose?

The Wrong Way to Drink

This shouldn’t really need explanation, but people still abuse alcohol every day. Those who don’t drink responsibly can exhibit reckless behavior such as:

  • pressuring others to drink
  • binge drinking
  • drinking at a very fast pace
  • messing with other people’s drinks
  • driving drunk

If you think you see someone drinking irresponsibly, do your best to stay away from them. Find some new people to hang out with, or leave the party.

The Right Way to Drink

If you’re underage, it’s obviously wrong to drink in the first place. But if you do choose to drink at a party, keep these tips in mind:

Make a plan for how you will get home.

This should be the first thing you think about when preparing for a night out. Know how you’re getting home well before the party.

There are a few ways to go about this. You can have a designated driver within your friend group. If there’s public transportation in your area, like buses or trains, use them. NEVER get into a car with anyone who has had too much to drink, and NEVER drive drunk – even if you’re just tipsy. You’ll pay for the consequences of those poor decisions for the rest of your life.

Pace yourself.

It takes a little while for the effect of alcohol to kick in. You might feel completely fine right after taking a shot, but remember that you’ll start to feel the effect a few minutes after.

Make sure to space out your drinking. Having a non-alcoholic drink in between, such as soda or water, helps keep you from going too fast. Aim to keep a one-to-one ratio with one glass of water for each glass of alcohol. For each alcohol beverage you have, drink a non-alcoholic beverage.

Keep in mind that safe, responsible drinking means no more than one drink in an hour.

For reference, one drink equals one 1.5 oz. shot of 40% alcohol, one 5 oz. glass of wine or one 12 oz. beer per hour.

Drink with people you know.

It’s a wise choice to stick with your friends while drinking. If you go alone, you could get into trouble and have no one to look out for you. Avoid drinking with people you don’t know that well or don’t trust. These people could potentially be dangerous, or they might run off somewhere else without telling you.

It’s also important to stay with friends who drink in moderation. Stay away from people who oppose not drinking as much, or encourage binge drinking.

Keep an eye on your drink too, especially if you’re with people you don’t know well. They might seem friendly, but they could sneak date rape drugs or something else dangerous into your drink.

Eat something before or during drinking.

If you drink on an empty stomach, you’ll feel the effects of alcohol quicker. You might also feel sicker. Eating before you go out will help you stay under your drinking limit.

Be sure to eat a meal rich in proteins and carbs. These help to absorb the alcohol.

Know your limits, and measures.

You are the most important person at the party! Your friends may keep a close watch over you, but you also have to take care of yourself. Part of this is knowing your limits. Listen to your body – it won’t take much to figure out how much is enough.

If it’s your first time out, drink at a steady pace to determine your alcohol tolerance. It also helps to drink with friends or people you know well so that you won’t get socially anxious and drink more than you can handle.

You can quantify your tolerance, as well. For example, it could be “three beers per night,” or “two glasses of wine in four hours.”

If you want a fun, harmless way to help you determine what an effect certain amounts of drinking could have on your body type, try this choose your own adventure game.

Know how to turn down a drink.

Drinking is supposed to be a social activity, not a place to show off how much you can stomach. There’s no need to keep up or even accept a drink in the first place.

When you don’t want to drink, decline with a polite excuse. A simple “No, thank you,” should do the trick, but if needed, you can add more. Try things like “I don’t drink,” “I have to drive home,” “I’m the designated driver,” or “I’m pacing myself.”

Choosing Not to Drink is Totally Okay

If you don’t like drinking to begin with, it doesn’t make you uncool in the slightest. You should applaud yourself for steering clear of a night that could negatively impact your health or your life. In fact, there are tons of other alternatives to a night of partying.

You can always stay in and have a fun-filled night with your friends. Watch movies, play video or board games or see what’s going on around campus. Or, check out this list.

College campuses usually have great alternatives to parties on weekends. These can include things like dances, paint parties, movies, social gatherings, speed dating or athletic intramural events.

Whichever you choose, know that there’s a right and wrong way to drink. When you go out, plan ahead of time and be alert. You’ll thank yourself after a long night of partying – and if you do things right, maybe you won’t feel so groggy the morning after, either.

Tips for Reducing Academic Anxiety

By Anne Davies

Study and exam-related stress is a problem for many students, whether or not they’re focused on achieving academic excellence, and it’s something that can affect students of any age. Nobody is immune to academic stress, but there are plenty of things you can do to reduce anxiety that centers on studying and exams.

Meditation can help you do better on exams. (Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta via Flickr.)

Meditation can help you do better on exams. (Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta via Flickr.)

Preparation and Organization

There are several key skills that go a long way towards reducing anxiety, just because they form a solid base of preparation and organization that help you stay focused and stay on top of your workload. Having a comprehensive study system is crucial, and it’s also important that whatever system you develop is one that works for you.

For example, having a good note-taking system is essential for college lectures, but the same system won’t necessarily work for everyone. Some people prefer to write notes by hand, others prefer to use a laptop, and some like to take audio recordings of lectures and write up notes at their leisure. It’s just a matter of trying different methods to find out what works best for you. It’s also useful to determine what your learning style is; some people learn best by listening, some by doing, some by reading or writing, and if you’re trying to force yourself into a style that isn’t optimal, studying instantly becomes less effective and more stressful.

One of the most important skills to have is that of time management: being able to organize your time and use it effectively, prioritizing tasks based on how urgent they are, and sticking to whatever schedule you create for yourself. Without good time management, you’re likely to end up completing assignments at the last minute, losing sleep studying the night before exams, putting yourself through a considerable amount of unnecessary stress, and impairing your academic performance. Study and exam anxiety is often related to lack of preparation, so the key way to reduce that anxiety is simply to create a study schedule and stick with it.

And finally, take advantage of the wealth of apps and programs that have been created for time management and study organization. There are some incredibly useful tools available—many of which are free—that can help you improve your study habits and manage your time more effectively.

Of course, for some people, no amount of preparation can help reduce academic anxiety to a manageable level, so it’s also useful to consider other methods of coping with study-related stress.

Relaxation Techniques

The second aspect is learning how to relax and control your anxiety; and while to some this might seem like the easy part, it’s very difficult for many people. It’s especially difficult when study anxiety isn’t rooted in tangible problems like lack of organization, because when anxiety develops for no apparent reason, it’s harder to manage because there are no concrete ways to solve the root cause. Regardless of the cause of the anxiety, however, there are some techniques that can definitely help reduce anxiety and stress, and all of the problems and symptoms they cause. One of these is meditation—a technique that has become widely used all over the world by all kinds of people, is easy to start, and when practiced regularly, is very effective. There’s more than one kind of meditation, however; for example, there’s mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, Taoist Qi gong, and transcendental meditation. While none are specifically aimed at managing stress, the general consensus is that mindfulness meditation, or Vipassana, is the most effective in this regard. Recent studies show that this kind of meditation can improve cognitive function as well as reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, so it’s perfect for students.

Meditation isn’t going to be possible during a test situation, of course, but there are some related techniques that are perfect for reducing anxiety when it hits. Simply spending thirty seconds or a minute engaging in deep breathing—long, slow breaths in and out—can be very calming. Another useful technique is “mindfulness moments,” in which you take a few seconds to engage with your surroundings by taking note of what you can see, hear, smell, and feel. Engaging your senses helps you feel more grounded, and helps you link back to the calming sensations you feel during mindfulness meditation exercises.


For more tips on relaxation and other study skills, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Are High-Achieving Students More Likely to Have Eating Disorders?

By Anne Davies

Eating disorders are a major problem in our society – one which is growing all the time. Many blame the unrealistic portrayal of physical ‘perfection’ in the media for the rise, and there certainly seems to be little doubt that a sense of personal physical inadequacy and a need for ‘perfection’ are contributory factors in eating disorder development. Other theorized triggers for the development of an eating disorder include a history of being bullied, a poor social and/or home life, and genetic factors. However, what surprises many is the demographics of those who tend to suffer from eating disorders. Far from being a problem restricted to superficial teenage girls, the eating disorder spectrum encompasses a vast and growing range of people from all walks of life – and high-achieving students are particularly at risk.

students eating

Photo courtesy of Penn State via Flickr

Poor Stereotypes

Eating disorders are, unfairly, considered to be a disease suffered exclusively by teenage girls who are obsessed with their appearance above all else. Indeed, such girls are considered something of a cultural joke – the trope of superficial teenage cheerleaders heading merrily to the bathroom to throw up has been played for laughs many times. This is wrong on the one level – bulimia is a serious illness requiring extensive and intensive recovery. It should not be treated as a joke, no matter who is suffering from it. So ingrained is this stereotypical perception of eating disorder sufferers that many keep the fact that they are struggling with such conditions silent, so as not to be considered superficial. The former Deputy Prime Minister of Britain, John Prescott, revealed in 2008 that he had battled bulimia for ten years without breaking silence, as he was ‘ashamed’ of being high profile, high achieving, and male while suffering from the illness. More worryingly, the public’s reaction to the news proved him somewhat right – while many were sympathetic, others responded with incredulity and ridicule. This is deeply unfair. Not only is it cruel and unnecessary to mock someone with a serious illness, there is considerable evidence to suggest that high-profile high achievers like Prescott (and, on a lesser scale, valedictorians) are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than many other groups.

Perfectionism

It’s all to do with perfectionism. Perfectionism is either a blessing or a curse, depending upon which aspect of your life you apply it to. Many valedictorians will recognize the urge to get things absolutely right 100% of the time. Being used to being good at academic matters, valedictorians sometimes find it hard to deal when they are bad at something – they aren’t used to it, and therefore haven’t built up the emotional software necessary to take the knocks and build from them. This is great when it comes to achieving in many areas of life – valedictorians are made from the kind of stuff that won’t back down from a challenge, and will persevere at something until they get it absolutely right. However, when one lets that perfectionism leak over into other life areas, things can go wrong – particularly when combined with the tendency to over-analyse which comes as part of the package for many high-achievers. Research is increasingly finding that obsessive perfectionism and over-analysis present a major risk for the development of eating disorders. If you can’t switch off and just let certain aspects of your life ‘be’, then you’ll start overanalyzing and trying to control every little thing, which can quickly lead to one becoming obsessively controlling about what they eat – particularly when combined with internal perfectionist pressure to look a certain way.

(Editor’s Note: Check out an article I wrote about students and perfectionism here.)

Control

High achievers often feel an intense amount of pressure – and it is well known that stress can manifest as disordered eating. When one feels pressured, one often feels that aspects of one’s life are spiralling out of control. An easy way to reassert control over one area at least of one’s life is through controlling one’s diet. One eating disorder which high-achievers are increasingly beginning to suffer from is a condition known as ‘orthorexia nervosa’. This manifests when a person becomes so absolutely obsessed with controlling the ‘purity’ of what they eat that their health (ironically) begins to suffer as a result. The degree of control required to sustain an orthorexic diet is phenomenal to the point of obsession, and ensures that the sufferer’s self-esteem quickly becomes dependent upon their diet. It’s frequently a slippery slope from orthorexia to anorexia or bulimia so, while it is of course very good indeed to watch what you eat and ensure that your food is healthy, if your diet starts controlling your life, take a step back and focus on more important things.

Self-Recognition

Perhaps the worst thing about developing an eating disorder is the impact which it has on the rest of your life. Remember, an eating disorder is primarily psychological – and it leaves little brain space for anything else. As such, your studies will naturally suffer while you battle the condition. It is vital, therefore, that you develop the self-knowledge necessary to recognize if and when your eating habits are becoming problematic. If you catch the tendencies early, and seek help as soon as possible, it will be much easier to break the condition and get your life back on track. Speaking out is the most important thing – no matter what sitcoms like Family Guy may claim, eating disorders are not a joke, and no medical professional or person who cares will laugh at you for having one. Help is available – just remember that your health is more important than your appearance!

Get Into These 4 Healthy Habits as You Head off to College

By K.C. Dermody

For most college students, going off to school brings the first real sense of independence and freedom. You’ll experience an abundance of unfamiliarity as you’re exposed to a new learning environment and living arrangements filled with different types of people. With this new environment and people comes a host of germs and viruses that can easily be passed around, potentially keeping you from your studies and threatening to impact your grades. In fact, 68 percent of college students stated that they missed class due to illness, according to a survey conducted on behalf of global hygiene company SCA.

You’ll probably make every effort to look your best by taking frequent showers and wearing the latest fashions, but there are many aspects of hygiene that college students commonly overlook. Ensure you’re taking the proper steps for good health this semester with these four tips:

1. Wash your hands often

Mom probably reminded you every single day to wash your hands, but now that you’re out on your own, it’s easy to forget. Good hand hygiene habits are crucial for preventing the spread of cold and flu viruses. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers these startling facts about hand washing:

  • It is estimated that washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50 percent.
  • More than 50 percent of healthy people have Staphylococcus aureus living in or on their nasal passages, throats, hair, or skin.
  • Hand washing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16 percent.

Germs are commonly passed along when shaking someone’s hand, touching a stair railing or door knob, and handling money among many other common activities. Protect yourself by washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 to 30 seconds.

washing hands

2. Take care of your contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses, you should know that they carry a risk of eye infection, particularly if good hygiene practices aren’t followed. Be sure to carefully follow the lens care guidelines your optician or ophthalmologist prescribed, and replace contact lenses frequently in order to reduce the risk of infection. Save money by ordering them online from a company like VisionDirect.

3. Maintain good oral health

Taking good care of your mouth and teeth helps to ensure that you have a healthy, attractive smile in addition to eliminating bacteria that can cause bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. Brush at least twice a day, and replace your toothbrush every three to four months. If you notice the bristles becoming frayed, it’s time to get a new one. Proper daily flossing is also a must. Floss one tooth at a time by sliding the floss in the space between your tooth and gum, gently rubbing the side of the tooth in and up and down motion.

4. Launder bed linens frequently

Laundry may be inconvenient with your new packed schedule and your living accommodations, but make every effort to wash your pillow cases, comforters and sheets in hot water and detergent at least once a week. Dust mites are drawn to the dark, moist environment of a mattress, and mite infestations are known to cause allergies and rashes as well as exacerbating asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

 

About the author: K.C. Dermody is a freelance writer who has published work on numerous sites and in printed publications, including Yahoo Travel, Sports & News, RunLiveLearn and The Sherpa Report.


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