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The Mass Media

Don’t forget to stay active during the semester!

Beacons+baseball+player+catches+a+baseball+during+a+game.
Het Patel
Beacons baseball player catches a baseball during a game. Photo by Het Patel / Contributor

I know, I know. School is a lot of work, and a lot of you—like me—are working during your free time as well. On top of that, I’m sure all of you have hobbies or countless family obligations that take up much of your remaining free time. As someone with pretty severe ADHD, I find myself practically overloaded with temporary hobbies that eat up all my free time when I’m not with my girlfriend, family or friends. But one hobby that I have stuck with and feel very good about devoting time to is exercise. Through my experience—and loads of research over the decades—I believe that making physical activity a dedicated hobby can be one of the smartest moves you can make. It’s a worthwhile time commitment, no matter how much time you commit.
Before I make my argument, I want to start out by clarifying that I completely understand that everybody possesses varying levels of physical ability. I, myself, have a shoulder impingement that has never fully corrected itself, and my girlfriend has a hip replacement and injured pelvis—the horrible prizes of getting hit by a car—among joint injuries sustained from doing gymnastics as a child. Some people may not be able to do anything outside of a wheelchair or are completely paralyzed. We also have a lot of older students at UMass Boston, who simply have to be more careful about potential injuries. Physical disabilities are numerous and varied, and not always visible. If any of this applies to you, I hope you do not think I mean to single you out or shame you in any way. Of course, you can only do what works best for you—and I encourage you to send me an email at [email protected] telling me about your experiences with physical activity, and how I can represent you!
So, with this caveat in mind, let’s get to the crux of the argument. Physical activity is, quite literally, a wonder drug. While it is not a universal panacea that can “cure” everything, it can certainly alleviate symptoms of a large number of issues. Physical therapy, of course, can improve the healing of injuries—my shoulder is a whole lot better than it would be had I not gone to a physical therapist for three months, and my girlfriend could certainly tell you how much PT helped her simply function every day. Any form of exercise that gets your heart rate up can also improve mental acuity and mood. Cardio exercise, in particular, can improve heart and circulatory health, as well as energy, and strength training can strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis, which causes your bones to become brittle as you age. Strengthening your body in general can help you perform tasks with ease and prevent basic injuries as well.
And look, I know exercise is a pain in the butt. I’d be lying if I said I believed that stuff about “the more you do it, the easier it gets”. That really hasn’t been my experience—taking the time to exercise has always been difficult for me. In fact, I went from doing some sort of intensive exercise six days a week at the peak of my interest, to weightlifting maybe three days a week at best with no cardio. Such are the “perks” of ADHD. But there are two stipulations to that fact. First, the feeling I get after exercising is amazing. I feel euphoric, focused, confident and accomplished—and I’m generally a perpetually anxious, self-critical person with clinical depression. Actually, exercise has even been better for me than Adderall for my ADHD; it doesn’t keep me focused for as long as Adderall, but it also doesn’t come with the horrible, depression-inducing crash.
Second, I have actually found another way to make setting aside time to exercise easier. Like I said before, simply doing it every day didn’t help. The strategy that has finally gotten me excited about working out is simple: Having fun with it! For me, using the Beacon Student Fitness Center’s equipment was the difference between gritting my teeth through annoying, dumbbell-only workouts and pounding pavement, and having a lot of fun with machines and proper equipment. I really enjoy my time there from start to finish. For others, it might mean other things; traditional sports or extreme sports are a common option, as well as simply walking, hiking or even yoga. Hopping in front of your Xbox Kinect or on your Nintendo Switch and doing some gamified workouts can be perfect for many people and is certainly becoming a popular option.
This gets right back to my point too. Exercise can mean a lot of different things to many different people, and any amount helps. Even 15 minutes a day of some yoga can greatly help you. Don’t take my crazy workout schedule as some sort of benchmark—I don’t even do that anymore. Actually, I got very into yoga over the summer when I stopped weightlifting so much, and saw great results in my strength, mood and flexibility. It can work wonders, especially when sitting at a computer or hunched over books all day.
This is all to say that, even during the semester, it is completely worth it to carve out some time for yourself and do some basic exercise if you are physically able to. If you find you like it, you can take it even further as I have—or you can keep it simple. Either way, I’m sure you will find your physical and mental health, and your academic success, noticeably improve. Here at the school, I recommend that you go visit the Beacon Student Fitness Center on the first floor of McCormack; I promise, it’s not as intimidating as it might seem. As an introvert, even I felt comfortable after just one session. You can even schedule session with a personal trainer who can craft a four-week workout program just for you, if you’re looking for some guidance—just go to the UMass Boston Student Athletics section of the school website or ask the person at the desk in the gym. You also can check out the UMBeInvolved website—where all clubs and organizations are listed—or visit the Clark Athletic Center for any sport-related groups.
Give it a try: You may be surprised at how much you enjoy it!

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor