Tag Archives: exercise

All about the gains

After discussing the topic of using exercise as a way to relieve stress in a previous blog, I figured I would go more in depth on the subject. With the new experience that college brings us, many people find it hard to adjust. Incoming students look to the gym as a way to stay away from the freshmen 15 or even to clear their minds from all their school work. Many people like going to the gym to enhance their bodies and stay in shape. For many people this might be their first time in a gym or working out and there’s nothing wrong with that. You shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t instantly see the results you want.

Some people find it harder than others to put on muscle once in the routine of regularly going to the gym. Using supplements like protein for example is a good source of additional help. At first you might be skeptical of the product as I once was because you’re not so sure exactly how it works. Taking protein with your workout is a good way to help build muscle and mass when you’re having a hard time doing so.

Protein is used in our body for several different things. “Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.” It is naturally produced in our bodies and is an essential part of our muscle structure as humans. Although it is produced in our bodies we need to consume more through foods such as meat, eggs, and nuts to reach our optimal protein levels. Exactly how much protein we need depends on our or weight and height. Since protein is essential in building muscle we need to consume more than what we usually do in our regular diets to see greater results.

After a workout, our body uses protein enzymes to repair our worn down muscle tissue. Protein is usually taken in the form of a powder, a bar, or a pill directly after a workout. “Throughout the digestion process protein is broken down by dietary enzymes known as proteases. The quicker these are broken down, the faster they can be converted into amino acids which can repair muscle tissue faster and promote quicker but natural growth.”

In my experience I can say that taking protein definitely works and helps in building muscle and adding mass. There is a clear difference when you are working out and taking protein as opposed to when you are working out and aren’t taking it. Even though you are taking protein you still won’t see instant results but you will most definitely see begin to see results quicker. At the same time I don’t recommend using protein supplements to people who aren’t routinely working out. It will turn into fat after not finding muscle tissue that needs repairing. With that being said, give it a try and let me know how your experience goes.





Stressed? Hit the gym

The world we live in today is very hectic and stressful to say the least. Between company deadlines, school projects, extracurricular commitments, and family obligations, who isn’t stressed? I know I certainly have had my fair share through my academics, and I have yet to experience the stress that comes with a professional job. The problem with our society is how to directly deal with stress. Countless people have problems with this. Some are aggressive, some are self-destructive, and others are simply helpless: they’ll let the stress consume them until it is too late. I have seen examples of each in my life. The aggressive type becomes feisty and nasty towards those giving sympathy, while the self-destructive and passive types are doomed from the very start. So how do members of our society cope with stress? What is the answer to this problem?

For one, everyone has their own answer. It could be taking a quick power nap, indulging oneself with treats, reading a book, or even organizing one’s thoughts into a to-do list. Everyone has their own method to deal with stress, and I happen to be saved through exercise. Whether it is cardio on the treadmill or simply using free-weights to get that pump that I need, exercise helps to not only clear my mind but also alleviate my stress. I enter the gym with a mind full of worries, and I leave feeling much better and more determined to finish my tasks. The gym is a place everyone should look to when stressed since it benefits both your body and mind; other methods to cope with stress, such as treating oneself with dessert, may be good for the mind, but I highly doubt the body can also benefit. The only problem with exercise is that one needs to put aside time in his or her day for it, and many simply throw that theory away because they believe they can use that time to continue to work. Trust me, the time is definitely worth it.

According to the Mayo Clinic Staff, “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever.” The same article goes to discuss how “you can make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management” no matter what physical shape you are in. Working out in general does more for your body than what one would expect. For example, endorphins, or the “brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters” are released, making you feel invincible after a great workout. I know I certainly look forward to that feeling. With that said, I have rarely had a negative experience from the gym (disregarding hurting something in the process). Exercise is basically working out every muscle in the body while giving your brain the rest it needs from all the demand it gets. In my personal experience, I really don’t know how I would be able to not get away from the demanding lifestyle of being a college student if it wasn’t for the gym.

Exercise has too many positive health benefits for people to not take advantage of it. Even just a mere 10 minutes on the elliptical or a couple sets of dumbbell exercises will ease the mind and lift one’s mood almost immediately. My workout regime during a stressful period depends on the amount of time I allow myself in the gym. All one really needs is around an hour, but if I have more time than that, I will go through my entire program for the day. That usually consists of a combination of dumbbell and barbell exercises, with cardio and abs towards the end of my workout. However, if crunched on time, I prefer cardio. Nothing feels better than a quick fifteen minute run, especially since my mind is refocused and ready to work. All in all, exercise, no matter to what extent, will help those looking for a stress-reliever. It’s something I have relied on in the past, and something I know I will continue to use, especially since the most stressful years of my life are only ahead of me.



Working Out the Body for the Mind

Trail Running Stock

In high school, I led an extremely active lifestyle. I ran cross-country, indoor and outdoor track, and had two training sessions daily, Monday through Friday. However, when I came to college, I wasn’t able to maintain as rigorous of a workout routine as I had before because of the increase of workload and scheduling differences. But now I feel as if the decrease in exercise in my life has affected other aspects such as mood, energy, and even school performance. In high school, I would wake up everyday at 6 am to go to school and have practice ranging anywhere from 2-4 hours, go to sleep at 11 or 12 and still get enough sleep and maintain a competitive GPA. Now I work out about 3 to 4 time a week for an hour or so, but I feel sluggish and tired throughout the day and it takes me a bit more effort to understand and comprehend my work. My eating and sleeping habits have only changed marginally since I came to college so I am really interested to find the answer to my question, “Does exercise have a positive affect on my academic performance?”

After I did some digging, I found an article on the New York Times back from 2012. Researchers in the department of psychology and neuroscience at Dartmouth College conducted an experimental study on 54 adults, ages 18 to 36, who were healthy but generally sedentary (meaning none of them exercise regularly). I believed that this was a good range for what I was personally looking for, but the only hesitation I had was that these participants were volunteers, which could lead to voluntary response bias. I know we did not go over this specific bias in class, but the idea is pretty much straight forward—those who volunteer to take part of something usually have prior believes or relations to the experiment, however, it mostly comes up in surveys and observational, so I did not worry myself too much about it.

The participants filled out a series of questionnaires about their health and mood, including how anxious they were both at that moment and in general. Previous studies have shown that exercise can increase levels of a protein called “brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which is thought to play a role in the positive effects of exercise on thinking. However, some people produce less BDNF by natural after exercise because of a variation in the gene that controls the production, so blood was draw from the participants for genetic testing to account for this.

The group also submitted a memory test that consisted of pictures of objects flashing across a computer screen in order to involve a different part of the brain that is normally focused on in studies of exercise and memories. This exercise involved the perirhinal cortex, a portion of the brain essential to remembering particular things and whether they happen to be new in your experience, rather than the hippocampus, the brain’s primary memory center. I really liked this distinction because I believe that is the part of the brain that is most used when learning new material in a classroom.

After all of the testing, the volunteers were randomly assigned to exercise or not over the time period of four weeks. Half began a supervised program of walking or jogging four times a week for at least 30 minutes, while the other half remained sedentary. The randomization at this point cleared up most of the doubts I was having before about the potential volunteer response bias.

At the end of the month, the participants were brought back for final mood and memory testing, but before hand, half of each group (those who exercised for the month and those who did not) walked or jogged.

As expected, many of the volunteers who’d been exercising for the past month significantly improved their scores on the memory and mood tests. But not all of them did. In general, those volunteers who had exercised for the past month and who worked out on the day of retesting performed the best on the memory exam. They also tended to report less anxiety than other volunteers. Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.

I found these results very motivating. It showed me that not just working out periodically, but consistent exercise correlates to both memory retention and anxiety regulation. Since there is a time factor of this experiment, reverse causation isn’t a viable problem that the results may face. This experiment in my opinion was conducted extremely well, and very thorough in its research. From these results, I feel like it is a sensible idea for other people should strongly consider implementing some sort of consistent exercise in their schedule because it has the positive outcomes seem to out weight any of the hassles of getting it done. I appreciate that there are some people who just don’t enjoy the process of exercise, so my advice to them would maybe just to try to be more aware of how active you are throughout the day. Rather than taking the bus, leave a couple of minutes earlier to walk to class.