“Exercise is another tool at your disposal, and it’s handy because it’s something you can prescribe for yourself.” – John J. Ratey
Activity is and always will be a part of my life as long as I can move.
As I started to think about “why” I exercise and “why” exercise is important I thought about times when I was active and times when I was inactive.
As a child, I played outside most of the time, riding bikes, playing games with friends (hide-and-seek; ghost in the graveyard, capture the flag), and adventures on the playground. As I got older, I started to participate in structured activities, running club, basketball, and martial arts and still found time for unstructured activities such as roller skating, swimming at the lake/pool, or dancing.
Once I graduated from high school, I stopped most of the activity that I had been involved in for the first eighteen years of my life. As I look back on it, I can see why the year and a half I was at Radford University was such a struggle. I ate and drink whatever I wanted, I chose not to be active, with the exception of the one semester I played intramural basketball but it was a struggle because it was the only activity I participated in. That year and a half of my life I chose not to be active – I gained weight (actually 40 pounds heavier than I am now, my grades were low (Ds and Fs in multiple courses), my anxiety and stress increased (unprepared for school, not studying well), I partied and drank for my social outlet (3-4 times a week). I loss both of my grandparents and had a hard time dealing with their loss. I really struggled to care about anything.
Things turned around when I decided to leave Radford University and go home to go to Germanna Community College. I started taking a weight lifting course and really enjoyed the class. I loved recreation and sport activity and had not thought of that as a career option. When it was time to start looking at four-year universities I decided I wanted to transfer to an institution that had a recreation or sport management program. My interest for the possible major came from my experience working in my home town for the local parks and recreation office where I supervised youth sports, managed our county pool operations in the summer and oversaw summer camp programming.
I decided to attend Elon University as a student in the Leisure Sport Management program. During my first semester I applied to be a part of the special events team for Campus Recreation. At the time, I did not know much about it, but I thought okay this is like parks and recreation but for a college campus. Little did I know the personal and professional impact working in campus recreation would have on me during my time at Elon and in the future.
For this post, I want to share campus recreation’s role in the development of my personal wellbeing. I began learning new avenues for different types of activity as an undergraduate and a graduate student with my experiences in campus recreation. I played intramural sports (one of my faves was at Central Michigan University playing Broomball – we were IM champions one year), becoming a water aerobics instructor (at Elon University and Central Michigan University), and participating in outdoor adventure activities (such as high and low ropes courses and hiking). Campus recreation gave me the avenue to take risks and try new activities that created a strong foundation for being active.
Over the past 20 years, activity has played an important role in my physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual health. And I know without it, I would have struggled to get through some of the more difficult times in my life. I have also learned to not let circumstances or other people sacrifice my time being active. I know I’m a better mother, daughter, friend, colleague, and teacher when I exercise,
In a video post earlier this week, I highlighted a book to discuss the importance of having a sparked light.
Why should we move, exercise, and engage in activity?
In the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. John Ratey shares that for the brain to have optimal function, the body needs to move. He shares the how and why physical activity is crucial in the way we think and feel.
So why should we exercise? Dr. Ratey explains the reasons for “why” we need to exercise, here are a few:
To prepare our brain to learn.
To improve our mood.
To improve our attention span and focus.
To lower stress and anxiety.
If you are interested in learning more about the role activity plays in our lives, I highly recommend that you check out Dr. Ratey’s book and take a deeper dive into understanding how activity is an amazing tool at our disposal.
Go out and get it, a sparked light.