Many students recently finished finals. I remember my first round of finals in college. I watched as the majority of students hunkered down and studied. They pored over their books and laptops—barely taking breaks to eat and sleep. Except for the library, which was packed to the gills, campus was dead.  

Determined to tap into this endless focus that seemed to have washed over campus, I sat down and got to work. After about an hour of concentrated studying, I felt like I wasn’t focusing too well. Still, I relentlessly hit the books until I realized beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t learning. I needed a break. My roommate was shocked when I told her I was heading to the store.

As I walked to the store, I questioned my decision to take a break. Studying constantly seemed like the right thing to do. There was a lot of material to cover. Plus, everyone was doing it—not just the freshmen. Surely the juniors and seniors knew what it took to do well on finals. 

I almost turned around before I even got to the store, but then I had an epiphany. I had taken challenging courses before, and I actually got worse grades on the tests that I had crammed for. By taking breaks, I was more productive. I made it to the store, got what I wanted, and continued to take other short breaks throughout finals week. My strategy paid off, and I ended up doing well.

Research is showing that learning and exercising are similar. Cramming for extended periods of time doesn’t work well (for most people :). It won’t help most people do well in school, and it won’t help most people develop a healthy body.  I encourage you to listen to your body and find your own path. If you’re still unsure which strategy works well for you, don’t be afraid to ask for some guidance from a fitness professional who stays up to date on research.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. 

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