Live a balanced life

In a previous article, we spoke of the importance of looking after your mental health. A large part of that involves looking after your physical health too. If you want to perform at your best and be as productive as possible, you need to look after your body. The two main ways to maintain your health are through diet and exercise.

It is all about balance. Especially if you are working while you study, you may feel that there is little time to put aside for other things like exercise, but it should not be forgotten. There’s a saying that if you don’t make time to look after your physical health, you’ll eventually be forced to lose time to ill health. “Saving” 20 minutes a day by neglecting exercise could land you with an illness that could keep you away from both work and studies for days or even weeks.

Something that is often neglected is posture. If you are going to sit at your desk for several hours a day, you want to ensure you keep good posture and do not hunch over your keyboard. Later on, we will give links for instructions and tutorials for pilates and the Japanese towel exercise, both of which strengthen the core and improve posture.

Eating healthily

Maintaining a healthy diet should be easier when studying online than attending traditional classes on campus. Being at home, you can cook for yourself and keep your fridge and kitchen stocked with healthy food. This works out both healthier and cheaper than grabbing food on the go while on campus.

Some examples of healthy food that will aid concentration and focus include fatty fish, blueberries, turmeric, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, nuts, oranges and green tea. Also included on that list is coffee, but as with the theme of this article, balance and moderation are important as too much coffee can leave you feeling restless and jittery and can worsen anxiety and depression. Some things to avoid from your diet are sugary drinks, aspartame, refined carbs, trans fats, processed foods and alcohol.

As well as watching what you eat, it is better to eat smaller meal portions and rather snake through the day to keep your blood sugar up. Avoid a large meal before studying as digestion will take priority, depriving your brain of the blood and oxygen it needs to perform best. As you likely know, eating a large meal tends to make you feel sleepy and lethargic for a while afterwards.

Getting enough exercise – the benefits

When studying online you need to pay extra attention to exercise. Attending class on campus tends to involve a lot of walking from one lecture to another, ensuring a baseline of regular exercise. When studying online you don’t even need to get out of bed, so it is especially important to consciously set aside time for exercise.

Taking an exercise break during your studies is a great way to achieve two things at once as you give your brain a rest and can return to your studying afterwards feeling less stressed or restless.

If you aren’t entirely convinced about the benefits of exercise, here are some reasons courtesy of the UJ gym to consider adding some exercise to your study regime:

  • Strengthened memory: Exercise releases protein in the brain that helps improve your memory.
  • Better concentration: Just 20 minutes of exercise before studying can improve concentration.
  • Improves mood: Exercise will keep the stress at bay and help maintain a positive mindset.
  • Increased energy levels: Exercise gives your energy levels a much-needed boost especially if you’re going to study long hours.

Suggestions for home exercise

If you can, getting outdoors for your exercise allows you to also enjoy the fresh air and some sunlight at the same time. Circumstances don’t always allow for that, but fortunately, you can still get all the exercise you need within your own home.

The goal is to get your blood flowing and your muscles working. Swimming, running, cycling or going to the gym are great ways to get a good workout, but you can do so at home too.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise gets your heart rate up and your lungs pumping to provide enough oxygen to meet your energy demands. The idea is that aerobic exercise is sustainable for longer periods. This is unlike anaerobic exercise, which uses up more energy in a shorter burst and requires intervals of rest in between, such as weight lifting or sprinting.

Try these links for video and other introductory lessons you can do at home:

Callisthenics

Although gyms would like you to think you need a wide range of fancy equipment to get a good workout and get in shape, you don’t need much at all. Callisthenics is the name for exercise that relies on your own body weight. Pushups, sit-ups and pull-ups are all forms of callisthenics.

Try these links for video and other introductory lessons you can do at home:

Pilates

Pilates is a form of exercise that has grown in popularity immensely in recent years and can be done at home. Although some routines require more complicated, specialised equipment, you can still do a full session at home with a mat. Pilates will increase your flexibility and muscle tone, but it is recommended that you still also do some form of aerobic exercise as it is low impact and does not increase your heart rate.

Try these links for some introductory courses and lessons:

Japanese towel exercise

Here’s one way of getting a good home workout that you may not have heard about. All this requires is a towel and enough space to lie down. This method was created by Toshiki Fukutsudzi, a Japanese doctor and specialist in reflexology and massage. The exercise aims to strengthen the core muscles, overcome bad posture, reduce back pain and shrink the waist.

Try these links for video and other introductory lessons you can do at home:

UJ gym and sports societies

As an enrolled student at the University of Johannesburg, you can make use of their many sports and fitness facilities. Of course, this is only helpful if you live close enough to one of the campuses, but if you are, then it is well worth checking out what’s on offer.

At the time of writing, the UJ gyms are still subject to COVID restrictions, but they are open and operational. The current covid guidelines can be viewed here: guidelines. You can also follow the gym on Facebook and join live fitness sessions: facebook.com/UJGymnasium/.

The gyms have state-of-the-art equipment and are staffed by experienced instructors who can help and advise you on how to get the best fitness results.

For details on joining, maps showing the locations on all the campuses as well as the latest updates on safety procedures, please visit the UJ Gym page.

You can also book your session online by filling in this form.

Contacts:

  • APK Gym: (011) 559 2284
  • APB Gym: (011) 559 1570
  • DFC Gym: (011) 559 6413
  • SWC Gym: (011) 559 5034
  • email: darshanr@uj.ac.za

UJ Sports societies:

Visit the UJ sports clubs page for details on what UJ has to offer, or click one of the particular sports below: