Five Ways to Get Your Work Out In While in Grad School

Melissa Hehmann

Melissa Hehmann, Student & Alumni

Many challenges surface when returning to school as a professional student. For most, the biggest obstacle is finding the balance between work, family, and school along with all the other day to day tasks of being an adult; such as laundry, eating and paying bills. I definitely struggled with this balance as well, especially considering I have a young son at home. However, the most challenging aspect for me revealed itself as I spent increasingly more time in front of the computer, which equaled less time moving.  To most this may not be a big deal. Something always has to give, right?  But, here’s the rub. I am a nutrition and fitness professional. It’s my job to encourage others to lead healthier lives.  I couldn’t be a hypocrite on this front.

Not only could I take a vacation from exercise due to professional circumstances, but there are benefits to exercise beyond physical health. The one most significant for a person returning to school is improved learning. Numerous studies, including this summary from the Journal of Physiology: London, suggest aerobic exercise leads to neurogenesis (generation of neurons) in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Is exercise the area of your life you were about to let slide in order to do this back-to-school thing? You may want to reconsider.  

Here are the ways I stayed active during my completion of the online Master of Science in Communication program.

1.    Daily workout.

I continued my 30-60 minute daily work out. It was a much needed stress relief and a boost for brain power. Oh, and it can help with sleep quality when you get to go to bed.   

2.    Revamped workspace.

I transformed my treadmill into a tread desk. I was able to use my laptop while walking at a slow (3.0 mph) pace. My heart wasn’t getting a workout, but I was moving and working away at our discussion posts. 

3.    Multitasking.

I read the weekly readings while on the treadmill or on my stationary bike. Again, I wasn’t moving fast, but I was moving.  

4.    Scheduled physical activities.

During the day, I set a timer to move every hour for 2 minutes. Later, I found an app called ‘Move’ to encourage me to do a set of exercises every 45 minutes. It can be customized.

5.    Incorporate an active commute when possible. 

My goal was to pick up my son from preschool on my bike at least once per week. I had to get him anyway and amazingly, really didn’t impact the time it took and he enjoyed the air on his face on the ride home.

I hope you’ll try some of these strategies to stay active as a professional student. It’ll boost brain power, act as a sleep aid, and enhance immunity – all of which are important for staying healthy and focused on completing your degree.

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Melissa Hehmann is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.