Working out: Academic benefit or cost?

Mairin Heimbuch '21, Copy Editor

Graphic by Mairin Hiembuch ’21.

Eating healthy and working out can affect teenagers’ mental health, and whether it’s negatively or positively impacted depends on their everyday habits.
According to health teacher Nicole Westfall, everything is connected when talking about emotional, social, physical and mental health.
“When exercising, it makes people feel good, and it can release different types of neurotransmitters like adrenaline or epinephrine, like the runners’ high, but you don’t have to get the runner’s high to get the benefits of exercising to make you feel better,” Westfall said. “Exercising helps with the mental, relaxing, sleeping; it’s all connected.”
Counselor Beth Walsh-Sahutske says clubs, sports and activities can provide a structure that’s really helpful for students.
“Oftentimes since sports practices are structured and kids know that they have to count on balancing that time for practice, they actually can become better at balancing their school work because they know they have a limited amount of time,” Walsh-Sahutske said. “When the season is over and they have a lot of time, sometimes their grades go down because they don’t have that structure built in.”
On the other hand, cross country runner Paloma Beacham ‘21 says that practicing for her sport every day makes it harder to get the grades she wants.
“I run cross country in the fall and that tends to bring down my first semester grades, because I get home around 5:20 every day after school, then shower and eat dinner, so I end up starting homework around 6:30,” Beacham said. “That’s if I don’t procrastinate a little bit, so it definitely does affect my school work and ability to get a good amount of sleep every night.”
Your food choice is important because it can affect how you feel and function throughout the day, according to Westfall.
“Obviously one of the most important things is eating breakfast, because breakfast helps with your brain, academics and focusing at school, and I know a lot of kids talk about how they skip breakfast,” Westfall said. “They used to do the food pyramid, but they got rid of that. Now they do My Plate, which is more of like a healthy balance where half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, so making better choices in regards to fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins, is essential.”

Paloma Beacham ’21 starts a cross country race last season. She said doing a sport can take away a lot of time from academics. Photo courtesy of Steve Zaranek.

According to Beacham, staying in shape has many benefits for students.
“I think it is important to stay in shape year-round, because you’ll feel better about yourself,” Beacham said. “Also, working out prevents procrastination and helps you feel accomplished. It’s also proven that 30 minutes of exercise a day can increase memory skills.”
Walsh-Sahutske says building in physical activity is really important, especially if you’re not in an organized sport.
“If you’re not in an organized sport that’s totally okay, but still build in workout time,” Walsh-Sahutske said. “If you can plan out that dedicated portion of your day that’s going to be spent on physical activity, that can help you plan out ‘okay, what does that leave me with in terms of the time I’m going to need to spend for school or the time to hang out with friends.’”
Being active helps reduce all the stress and anxiety that comes from school, according to Beacham.
“As I run, I feel like I’m breaking free from my problems,” Beacham said. “I just listen to energetic music and run for about 30 minutes every day to help relax me.”
According to Walsh-Sahutske, there is a relationship between managing your life in multiple different areas and mental health.
“As things start to go negatively, I think that can have a ripple effect on other parts in your life, and the same goes for when things are going good,” Walsh-Sahutske said. “When you start to get things together in your life, and you’re organized, planning and feeling good, oftentimes it ends up spreading into lots of different portions in your life.”