I have valued exercise most of my adult life and found it particularly beneficial in medical school. While we all know this, it is important that I remind you of the benefits of regular exercise and its importance for your physical and mental well-being. Making physical activity a part of your routine also establishes a positive example for your future patients.
The biggest value that exercise in medical school provided me was mental clarity and a break from studying. Everyone has had a day (or 100) where their mind is losing steam by 3:00 p.m. but you know you need to keep studying. When I started to feel the efficiency of my studying waning and my mind beginning to wander, that is when I knew it was time to take a break and clear my head. After working out, I returned to the library rejuvenated to finish the day. Furthermore, I saw that after a break for physical activity, I had improved focus and retention of the material. You may worry about losing an hour of studying, but that hour spent in the gym will pay dividends when you return to the books. Clearing your mind enables you to work more effectively on the task at hand.
When you are initially getting started, allow yourself time and flexibility to establish a routine and basic schedule. The first few days of a new module, course, or clerkship often require adjustments to determine where it works best in your day. Once you have a schedule, stick to it. You will enjoy the time you allow yourself to recharge away from the studies and will be more efficient once you return. I was fortunate that the medical school library was right across the street from the recreation center at my medical school. This made for convenient access. If this is not the case for you, see what logistical solutions you can come up with to allow exercise to fit into your schedule.
“Clearing your mind enables you to work more effectively on the task at hand.”Dr. Jack T. Wilson, Contributor, Med Student Edge
If you are someone who needs increased accountability to exercise, I recommend a partner or group to go with. Having someone join you takes some of the work out of working out.
Make your own definition of exercise. You do not have to be an Olympic power lifter or marathon runner (I am certainly neither of those). Yoga, weights, running, walking, biking, etc. It does not matter what you do, as long as you are doing something. Find what works for you, not what works for everyone else and you’ll be happy that you did.
Have questions about exercise and the benefits it can have on your academic performance? Let us know in the comments.