Consistent exercise proven to reduce stress, cancer risk

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With final exams less than two weeks away, the anxiety of projects and tests is setting in around campus.

Graduation is creeping closer for seniors, and many are feeling the added stress of searching for the perfect job or graduate school. It becomes more difficult to make healthy decisions when pressure mounts at the end of the semester.

Students study longer hours and fuel their marathon study sessions with caffeine-laced cappuccinos or energy drinks. For some, a good night’s sleep is no longer an option. Nutritious meals are replaced by junk food and snacks loaded with salt and calories. During the turmoil surrounding final exams, some students forgo the healthy habits they usually practice – bike rides, walks, visits to the rec – to find more time to study.

But now, more than ever, all of us should find time to care for our bodies. Finding time to exercise, eat right and sleep is difficult at this time of the semester, but science has shown (and many of us know) that exercise can help your body become a high-performance machine.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s Web site, www.mayoclinic.org, even moderate exercise can improve your mood. Exercise can stimulate various brain chemicals that leave you feeling calmer and happier; engaging in regular physical activity has also been shown to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety – and there are plenty of those to go around during final exams.

Under the pressure of deadlines and borderline grades, many students resort to all-night study sessions to prepare themselves for upcoming tests. Unfortunately, a complete night’s sleep – seven to eight hours – is the best way to improve concentration and productivity. The Mayo Clinic also states exercise is the best way to fall asleep faster and achieve deeper, more rejuvenating sleep.

Besides the benefits exercise brings during school, regular physical activity has advantages over a lifetime. Earlier this month, researchers at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting announced new findings that exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women: Engaging in recreational exercise 30 to 150 minutes per week cut the likelihood of breast cancer in women in half. Several studies have shown that men who engage in frequent, vigorous physical activity can reduce the chance of developing prostate or colon cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only half of adolescents (people ages 12-21) participate in regular exercise. Almost a quarter of those same people report no physical activity at all. It is now, during our younger years, that we set our habits for the rest of our lives. Students should exercise now to not only give themselves an added edge during final exams, but to improve the quality of their lives for years to come.

Joe Vossen is a senior in political science. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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