The phenomenon that is referred to as first-year spread, sometimes known as first-year syndrome, refers to the fact that first-year students are particularly susceptible to weight gain. After leaving home students start putting on the kilos due to tight budgets, stress, or excessive eating and drinking. Students may also be packing on the kilos because they are missing breakfast, indulging in previously forbidden foods or they are just too busy to cook a healthy meal and grab take-aways instead. However, like the saying goes, “use it or lose it”. If you do not exercise regularly you will fall most likely fall prey to first-year syndrome.

There are many ways to keep healthy and fit while studying. The first option is joining a gym. There are gyms like the Tuks Student Gym (TSG), Virgin Active and the High Performance Centre that are within walking distance of campus. At Virgin Active students can get a gym contract for R395 per month, or if you are a Discovery Health member, for R197 per month. TSG, found on the Groenkloef and Sport campus, allows students to get a contract from January to December for R1400, or a 30 day contract for R180 per month.

The second option for those students who prefer the outdoors is to simply take a jog or walk around the block. Students can run or walk on the marked trails around the Hatfield campus. There are three trails, each marked by a different animal footprint. The red trail marked by an antelope footprint is a 3.85km track but can be reduced to a 3.8km track if you follow the alternative route marked by the blue lion footprint. The yellow trail marked by a steenbok footprint is 2.1km, but those who feel that the track is not long enough can also follow the blue lion footprints, extending the trail to 2.3km. These trails allow students to enjoy the design of buildings on campus, like the Centenary building, the Plant Science building and the Chapel on the Old Monastery grounds. Students who use the trails will also pass through the botanical gardens, tree-lined avenues and see the sculptures that are placed around campus. By using these trails you will be able to get to know your way around campus while exercising, and you can start the trail at any point on the route.

The third option is to join any of the sporting codes that TuksSports offers. These include hockey, netball, cycling, dancing, cricket, rowing, swimming, athletics, gymnastics, rugby and judo, to name a few. Not only will this option be a great way to stay in shape but it will also allow you to meet new people outside of your normal study group.

You may be thinking that it is a counter-intuitive to spend your spare time or energy after a busy day filled with lectures on exercise. However, exercising releases endorphins, also known as “happy hormones”, which give the perfect pick-me-up after a long, stressful day. According to Health Discovery, exercising is important because it helps prevent and reduce health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Exercise can also help you feel more relaxed by burning off negative energy, improving your posture and, most importantly, helping you to stay healthy.

The benefits from excercising regularly are not only short term. According to Health Discovery, “Once you begin to exercise regularly, you will discover many more reasons why exercise is so important to improving the quality of your life. Exercise reduces stress, lifts moods, and helps you sleep better. It can keep you looking and feeling younger throughout your entire life.”

Students around campus were asked why they went to gym or enjoyed exercising. Jason Jardine, a third-year BCom Business Management student, said, “The reason I gym is because I want to be healthy and fit so I can live a nice long clean life, as well as to improve my image.” Sarah Hulett a second-year architecture student, said, “I like running on the road or trails because it puts a drag in the air and it is a better experience.” Andrew Plint, a third-year sports science student, said that he is required to go to the gym as part of his course. “I enjoy going to gym most of the time, just some of our programmes don’t require such physical movements, so that isn’t fun,” says Plint. Craig Jackson, a third-year BA student, said, “I enjoy gym to stay fit, but sometimes I am lazy and struggle to fit it into my day because I work in the afternoons. I guess it comes down to time management but when I do go I feel good about myself”.

While first-year may offer its own stress due to new surroundings, living away from home, getting used to the work load, making new friends and feeling at ease, don’t let the first-year spread be another one of your stresses. Exercise as often as you can and eat properly, but dont forget to indulge in those yummy treats once in a while.


Photo: Hendro van der Merwe

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