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August 2, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Regular Physical Activity Helps to Protect your Health

Recent research published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that university students are four times more likely to be anxious and depressed compared with other people their age. The medical and nursing staff at the Student Health Service understand how demanding life can be for students. We are available to provide students who are experiencing anxiety and depression with professional and supportive care.

One way of treating symptoms of anxiety and depression and improving your general health is taking part in regular physical activity. If the benefits of physical activity could be received by taking a tablet, people would be rushing to make an appointment with their doctor to request a prescription.

Sometimes it can be difficult to fight against inactivity, especially when you are tired and overwhelmed by commitments. Student life, including thinking and sitting in lecture theatres, in the library, or in front of a computer screen, can leave you feeling exhausted and contribute to symptoms of stress and fatigue. Common ways used to cope with these symptoms include reaching out for nicotine, strong coffee, alcohol and stimulants which can actually make people feel worse. However, the good news is that recreation is an effective option.

Regular physical activity helps you feel better because it:
• Lowers your stress and boosts your mood.
• Increases your strength, movement, balance and flexibility.
• Helps control blood pressure and blood sugar.
• Helps build healthy bones, muscles and joints.
• Helps your heart and lungs work better.
• Improves your self-esteem.
• Boosts energy during the day and may aid in sleep at night.

Aerobic exercise, like walking, is great as it improves the oxygen capacity of the lungs and heart. It also improves blood circulation to the brain. Exercising thirty minutes a day, three to four times a week, can improve your aerobic capacity.

Mind and body exercises are also very beneficial for the brain. They are fantastic for reducing stress, improving clarity and energising the body both physically and mentally. These exercises include stretch and muscle strengthening classes such as Yoga, Pilates and Oxigeno.

The Recreation Centres on campus offer a wide variety of exercise options, classes and activities. The staff at the Recreation Centre are experienced, knowledgeable and very approachable. The main centre is on the Kelburn Campus with a smaller centre in the basement of Rutherford House on the Pipitea Campus.

The Recreation Centre also has an Activities Programme which includes scuba diving, horse trekking, mountain biking, paintball games, skiing trips, sea kayaking, canoeing and dance classes. Other activities include walks around the Wellington region, which is a great way to find out more about the local environment and to meet other students.

We often forget that the brain is part of the body; it has its own physical needs. Ensuring that you get some regular exercise will help you achieve a dynamic and well functioning brain and help you to feel happier and able to study better. If you would like any more information on the programmes offered by Recreation Services, please drop by, call 463 6614 or visit union.vuw.ac.nz/reccentre/.

Two excellent New Zealand-based websites with helpful information regarding depression and how to get through it are www.thelowdown.co.nz and www.depression.org.nz.

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