Four ways exercise can relieve exam stress

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Your exam's in a week, but so far all you've managed is to sit in the library stressing out for six hours re-reading the same paragraph over and over again. Your energy levels are so low even the three coffees you've gulped down aren't cutting it anymore. Feeling helpless? Exercise could be the answer!

Read the top four ways exercise has been proven to effectively help improve focus, memory and energy levels whilst also helping to clear your head and boost endorphins (which, in turn, reduces stress hormones).

1. Exercise relieves stress

The bad news? Stress slows down the brain’s ability to process information, making it more difficult for us to concentrate and focus, which in turn can greatly impact your exam performance. The good news? There is a cure! Exercise cranks up the body’s production of serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good brain chemicals which helps create a happier and healthier mood. Even a quick 20 minute session can radically change your mental and physical state, especially if you have been sitting in the library all day.

2. Exercise improves memory retention

Finding it harder and harder to remember those Shakespeare quotes? Or the almost impossible answer to that biology question? Fitting in regular exercise into your routine can quite literally “jog” your memory. Exercise releases endorphins, also known as nature's mood elevator, which has been shown to improve memory and boost your brain-building hormones. So next time you’re stuck for revision, try getting outside and let your brain do its magic!

3. Exercise increases focus and concentration

Regular exercise releases brain chemicals key for memory, concentration, and mental sharpness at the same time as lifting your mood, lowering stress and anxiety all of which contribute to brain health. Studies show that regular exercise helps you manage complex tasks, organise and razor sharpen your focus which is great for those long revision sessions or particularly complex exam questions.

4. Exercise boosts your energy

Feeling slumped? The more you move, the more energized you will feel. Regular physical activity improves your muscle strength and brain power, giving you the energy you need to think clearer and come up with new ideas. A good 15 minute break from revision to move around, even just around your living room, makes your body produce more energy whilst also making you feel happier. So instead of sitting around with nothing sinking in, try some short HIIT exercises like in our video above. It’s free, it’s easy and best of all – you don’t need a gym to do it!

Watch the video below to get some quick and easy exercise ideas from our senior lecturer Irfan Khawaja to try out during your exam period.

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Irfan Khawaja

Senior Lecturer

Physical Education and School Sport

Exercise is vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Recent studies indicate that exercise is effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, whilst also enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate on studying for examinations or other assessments.

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