Tired? Exercise!

Cameron Loughney, Opinion Copy Editor

Feelings of exhaustion raced through my body as I sprinted from one end of the pool to the other. Water polo practice was always a workout. But even though I got out of the pool feeling exhausted, I felt satisfied after the two-hour session. I went home, showered, ate dinner and finished my homework. I went to bed at 10:00 p.m. and woke up at 6:00 a.m. to repeat the cycle. 

This cycle was one I repeated for the majority of my life. From before I entered preschool to my junior year in high school, I always played team sports in some fashion. Sports have been a part of my life, and have allowed me to stay in good shape. 

The balance between school and sports was never difficult. Through effective time management, I have almost always been able to get eight hours of sleep nightly, and I have never needed coffee to keep me energized throughout my day. 

However, the balance between sports and school for the entirety of my life quickly entered disequilibrium as I began my junior year. Being a part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and joining three new clubs meant I had too many responsibilities to take care of. To secure more time for the work I had to do, I stopped playing water polo. I was sad, but I also understood that it was a sacrifice I had to make if I wanted to stay mentally healthy with the work I had taken on. 

For the first eight or so months after I stopped playing water polo, my life was a breeze. I had so much more time to do my work, and I had more time to relax after a long day. After those few weeks, however, I noticed a worrying trend. My 10:00 p.m. bedtime was replaced by 9:30 p.m., then 9:00 p.m., and on some days, I went to bed as early as 8:30 p.m. At first glance, this may seem like a good thing. More sleep… right? Well, not exactly. 

I stopped finishing all of my homework before bedtime. When I went to bed at 9:00, I still typically had an hour’s worth of homework, but I was just too tired to finish it. The quality of my sleep also tanked; I started periodically waking up during the night, and when I woke up, I didn’t feel rested. I would go to class feeling exhausted, and it was very difficult for me to pay attention in class. I hated this feeling of overwhelming exhaustion, and I didn’t know what to do. 

I didn’t want to turn to caffeine; I’ve always believed that caffeine is unnecessary for high schoolers. I thought it was my diet, but I did a little research and found that wasn’t the issue. And it definitely wasn’t sleep either; I was getting more sleep than I ever had in my life. I talked to my mom about the issue and she instantly knew the problem: I wasn’t getting enough exercise. 

Every year I have been in school, I have played sports. When I stopped playing water polo, the symptoms of exhaustion I felt were withdrawal. My body needed more exercise. The Williamson Medical Center confirms this, noting that exercise leads to higher energy, and also improves the quality of sleep an individual receives. 

So, at this point, I knew what I had to do to fix my fatigue. But I still had the issue of time. I was so busy, and exercise seemed impossible. So I had to incorporate small chunks of exercise into my daily life. I started biking and walking to and from school every day, and I noticed a significant improvement in my level of alertness. 

One day, as I walked to school, I had a brief reflection on my journey. It was 6:45 in the morning, and I had woken up 30 minutes ago, but I was as alert as ever. I took a sip of my water and breathed in the cool crisp morning air. I arrived at school feeling refreshed, ready to start the day. 

Exercise cured my fatigue. I don’t need caffeine to get over my exhaustion. Getting 8 hours of sleep every night as an IB senior is something I’m very proud of, and it’s even better with a walk every morning. With just over 30 minutes of exercise a day, I am able to be the best version of myself while at school. 

It may seem impossible, but fitting exercise into your daily schedule is definitely doable. Next time you consider drinking a morning cup of coffee, take a morning walk instead. Then make that walk a daily routine. It’s about time that we start making our health a habit.