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JMU's University Recreation Center (UREC) offers a variety of physical activities for students to engage in, including rock climbing.

There’s a common consensus most can agree upon when it comes to how one can improve their quality of life: physical activity. 

There are six indicators that ensure a high quality of life: education, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, work-life balance and health. To be able to achieve a high quality of life, one needs to be physically and mentally healthy above all else. The term “quality of life” can be very subjective, depending on one’s goals. There are many factors  that can contribute to this aspect, and it can be argued that physical activity is not needed to achieve a high quality of life. Though, while one can delve into their career and become the highest excelling member in that field, if lacking total physical activity, physical and mental health will start to decline. 

For some, it may seem that getting involved in a sport or setting aside an hour to go to the gym will only take time away from their studies. Though, , taking a break after completing an assignment or utilizing time between classes,  there are should be a way students can manage school and exercise efficiently. Implementing these routines are essential for various reasons such as improved memory retention, physical health and stress relief that make weekly exercise necessary. 

Physical health is the predominant reason to participate in some sort of exercise. This could be joining a sports team, lifting at the gym, rock climbing or something as simple as going on a walk. Exercise allows the body to strengthen and build a defense against certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and various other cancers. It can also improve sleep, overall strength and regulate blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Along with the physical aspect, the brain needs exercise, too. BYU cell biology and physiology professor Jeff Edwards found that exercise feeds the brain by increasing blood flow, lowers stress and improves memory. 

Edwards explains the brain is an organ that requires good circulation because of its high metabolic demand. When someone exercises, there’s an increase in blood flow which increases the brain’s cognitive ability. Memory is also enhanced because exercise directly increases the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This process allows for new synapses to form, which control the learning and memory functions of the brain. The more BDNF that’s accumulated, the more brain function increases which will allow for an increase in academic performance. 

Exercise is also key to regulating stress. College can be a high-stress environment, so the more students can do to minimize this stress, the better. According to the College of Life Sciences at BYU, when someone exercises, the number of stress receptors that impact the hippocampus are instantly minimized. This inherently reduces the effect of the stress hormones on the brain. So, whatever stress or anxiety is invading the brain can be easily reduced by setting aside time from school to incorporate some form of physical activity during the week. 

Junior nursing student Rachel Day said even with her vigorous schedule, she still finds the time for exercise and has learned the importance of physical activity. 

“Physical health is very important and with my major, I’m an advocate for it,” Day said. “All of my classes have made me realize the short and long term benefits that physical activity has on your body, such as your heart, lungs and brain ... I also believe that it’s important for college students to get into the routine now so it is already implemented into their routine during adulthood.”

While it may seem hard to get into the routine of exercising, Dukes are fortunate enough that this university offers extensive resources that students and faculty can use free of charge. The University Recreation Center (UREC) offers indoor and outdoor facilities that contain various gyms, equipment and fields, as well as group classes focusing on pilates, yoga, nutrition and more. Most off-campus apartment complexes also have gyms that the residents can utilize. 

With all of these resources, students should have little excuse to neglect their health. 

Oriana Lukas is a junior media arts and design major. Contact Oriana at lukasok@dukes.jmu.edu. For more editorials regarding the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the opinion desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Opinion.