Last June, I had to buy several pairs of new pants, and I’ll tell you why: during my freshman year, I gained 25 pounds. Ridiculous, I know. I saw the “Freshman 15” and raised it 10.
Any positive health habits I had before going to college were left at home with my high school journals and yearbook — artifacts pointing to an earlier time.
In the campus cafeterias, I ate voraciously. All-you-can-eat kosher food? You tell me why I shouldn’t scoff down five hot dogs and two hamburgers. I’d never seen, let alone eaten, so many french fries in my life. The meanings of the words “moderation” and “exercise” were lost to me.
Over the summer, in a moment of inspiration, I challenged myself to run a mile. Nothing too crazy. When I barely made it to the finish line without passing out, I decided it was time to make some changes in my lifestyle.
I researched healthy eating and beginner fitness training. What I wanted was a sustainable system — not a two-week fad I would soon forget. Slowly I reformed what and how much I ate. Kashi cereal for breakfast and salads for lunch. I even developed a relationship with the treadmill in my building and started doing some yoga here and there.
Valuable lesson: little changes, along with commitment and time, add up to big results. Since the end of my freshman year, I’ve lost all that extra poundage (and then some) and feel great, exercising multiple times a week.
Two events led me to reflect on my experience with exercise: the re-opening of the East Gym this week and the beginning of a new semester. They came together to create a unique opportunity for everyone to establish a healthy routine.
Students have varied motivations for getting fit. Some of the most common benefits of exercise are sexual appeal, muscle growth and weight loss. Of course, there is also a host of splendid “by-products,” or secondary results of exercise.
As an adolescent, I suffered from (self-diagnosed) chronic insomnia. At night I would toss and turn for hours, finding no respite. Thinking of myself as pre-pre-med, I even prescribed for myself Melatonin — an over-the-counter drug meant to bring on sleepiness — to no avail. Yet, since I started exercising regularly, I’ve enjoyed the most rejuvenating, revitalizing sleep of my life.
For me, what was and is chiefly important was avoiding the bleak feeling of deterioration, which inactivity necessarily brings on. If I don’t run every few days, I feel grumpy and groggy. The blood in my veins stands still, exhorting me disappointingly, “Mikey, are you still alive?”
I live for the rush after a good run when I know I’ve given it my all. The best high is the one waiting for you at the peak of a full-body stretch, your back unable to bend an inch more. With the endorphins going full blast, I feel like I can do anything.
I’m not claiming to have discovered that physical activity boosts emotional well-being. The scientific evidence that demonstrates exercise’s effects in reducing stress and depression are well-documented. But if you haven’t recently felt the exhilaration of doing a 5K run or doing so many push-ups your arms are about to fall off, I suggest you get active. Your body will thank you for it.