Can you afford not to exercise?

I was never particularly sporty at school. I was usually the last person to be picked for the team in sports class and I hated competition, so naturally I developed an aversion to physical activity.

I thought exercise was for other students (i.e. the popular guys and girls), but it certainly wasn’t for me. I looked down on exercise with a “who needs it!” attitude.

But then one day I realised that I was missing out on something quite special.

Somehow after studying for hours on end and not getting anywhere, my mum convinced me to take a break and attend a local boxercise class (if you’re not familiar with boxercise, it’s a boxing aerobics class).

To my amazement, boxercise was nothing like school sports class. I wasn’t being graded on executing the perfect punch and there was no pressure to win. What a relief!

1 hour of upper cuts, jabs and hook punches cleared my mind and left me feeling energised and refreshed.

I was hooked (no pun intended). Regular exercise became my way to a clearer and calmer mind as well as boosted grades and performance.

As Dr Atkinsons states –

“Exercise is the closest thing we’ll ever get to the miracle pill that everyone is seeking. It brings weight loss, appetite control, improved mood and self-esteem, an energy kick and longer life by decreasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and chronic disabilities”

Engaging in regular exercise is not just a great investment in your body, but also in your studies and work. Research shows that exercise helps us to learn more effectively, stimulates neuron growth, improves our thinking skills and enhances our motivation.

A study by Shephard and Lavaellee at the University of Toronto took two groups of students – a control and experimental group. The experimental group had 1 extra hour of physical education each day. Despite the fact that the control group had 13-14% more time studying than the other group, the researchers found that the experimental group were outperforming the control group in academic achievement after one year.

It’s clear – if you’re more physically active then you can think more clearly and focus on what you need to do (as opposed to feeling tired, less alert and easily distracted).

We need to start to relate to movement and exercise as an opportunity to sharpen our minds, not as a waste of time or inconvenience.

The goods news is that to experience the full benefits of exercise you don’t need to spend hours at the gym each day. Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most (if not all) days of the week is all you need.

The key is to find as many ways as possible to be active in your day. For instance: take the stairs instead of the elevator, instead of watching TV after dinner go for a walk, and if you want to play a video game choose the Wii Fit instead (sure, it’s not the same as engaging in actual exercise but it’s better than nothing).

So next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do, consider getting active and going out for a walk, run, bike ride or swim. As a poster at my old gym states –

The question isn’t “Can I afford to exercise?” but “Can I afford not to exercise?”


Shephard RJ, Lavallee H, Volle M, La Barre R, C B. Academic skills and required physical education: The Trois Rivieres Experience. Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Research Supplements. 1994;1(1):1-12.