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An antidote to everyday problems or the importance of physical activity

Physical activity among students is a diverse topic worthy of a discussion. Many factors influence the way physical activity is perceived. The perception of physical activity changes depending on a person’s age and lifestyle, as well as the environment.

Practicing sports from an early age and positive experiences related to it increase the person’s predilection for fitness challenges. However, what should you do when it is hard to find motivation and many factors put your fitness credo to the test? You should not start with moving mountains and straining your body at the gym. As a rule, it is sufficient to regularly practice something you enjoy. Try to overcome your aversion to exercise and make an active lifestyle an effective antidote to your everyday problems. Allow yourself a moment of self-reflection.

Hidden benefits of exercise

In sports and recreational activity, a certain paradox can be observed. On the one hand, they involve a specialised technique, well-trained routine, competition, the pursuit of particular goals and satisfying results; on the other, a high level of uncertainty, fear of fatigue, erroneous forecasts, and sometimes the need to overcome one’s own weaknesses under difficult conditions. A sporting activity depends on the capabilities of each individual and is influenced by childhood experiences. If you spent your adolescence playing and romping around the neighbourhood with your friends from the block and immensely enjoyed the experience, then you will remember this special, carefree time for years to come.

The level of satisfaction derived from sports depends on your relationship with your peers and mentor who supports you in this activity (parent, coach). There is yet another factor that determines a person’s attraction to sports, i.e. an emotional one (including interpersonal relations, friendships and being a part of the community). It is definitely easier to train in places where you do not feel pressure and in environments where you can make friends freely. Humans develop a stronger attachment to social communities.

A thin membrane of mood

The release of tension-reducing endorphins during increased physical activity is one of the mood-regulating factors. If, after a few days of intense endorphin release, no next dynamic workout is provided, the opposite effect may occur (i.e. a greater sense of distress and negative arousal). Avoiding or skipping workout sessions can increase negative emotions such as fatigue, mundanity, powerlessness and guilt because of neglected workouts. We are all familiar with these states. However, we also know ourselves and we are aware of the fact that it depends on us how quickly we can overcome our inner limitations. Here, you can apply a well-known tactic that works in practice. Instead of seeing yourself as a misanthropic creature or an oppressed martyr, you should rid yourself of your pangs of conscience and take your fate into your own hands. The method of ‘small steps’ will serve this purpose. How to implement it? For example, if your goal is to run a half-marathon, but you have not practiced any sports regularly up to now, this ambition will initially be unattainable. Applying the 'small steps' strategy, you divide your task into smaller, less demanding portions and extend it over time. What is important is your goal, motivation, regularity and patience. Thanks to persistence and rational time management, you may achieve greater success on your way to the top. If you do not exert yourself at the beginning but gradually increase the intensity, you will form a good habit, which will later motivate you to take up greater challenges. The method of ‘small steps’ can be applied to the acquisition of new skills. In every area of life, success confirms our belief that we are able to achieve more than initially expected.

Good habits are the key to all success

The health benefits of physical activity are emphasized in physical education classes at every stage of education. The mere awareness of these golden rules may not produce astounding results when certain topics have become commonplace. The time constraint is no obstacle to introducing key habits into your life. A slim and athletic figure has become the modern ideal. To achieve it without commitment and sacrifice is a utopian scenario. Seeing sporting activity as a way to achieve health and look attractive may be the beginning of a good change. What is needed is the development of a key habit. Such a habit is formed when there is a task to be performed, which often requires self-discipline, strengthens motivation and uncovers the resources of a strong will. The key habit is a small step with a modest but satisfying victory associated with it. It is a reward that brings satisfaction with and pride in one’s achievements over the long term. Key habits may include someone’s favourite exercises accompanied by positive emotions, e.g. a relaxing yoga session after a long period of study, an evening jog with a friend or a morning walk to spend time in nature. Key habits are drivers that have the following consequences: eating healthier food, better planning to include workouts in your day, stress relief or kindness towards other people. Research shows that people who have sporting habits are more likely to reach for healthier products after training.

According to recent reports, which are encouraging, as a result of regular training we start to make significantly better food choices and avoid processed food in favour of fruit and vegetables. The development of key habits is a testimony to one’s willpower, which is nowadays understood as the ability to act in accordance with one’s intentions. Willpower is the most important key habit that ensures an individual’s success. People who practice sports regularly have better time management skills than those with a passive lifestyle.

Adapted Physical Activity

By taking up regular exercise you can restart your life at any stage. It is like a breath of fresh air in between mundane everyday chores. It is no secret that systematic physical activity prolongs and improves our quality of life, increases our physical fitness and body efficiency, enables us to maintain appropriate body weight and develops the sense of well-being. Physical exercise is the bread and butter of rehabilitation for patients with musculoskeletal conditions, chronic diseases and obesity. Specific forms of physical activity are employed to work with healthy and sick people from various age groups in the therapy of complex diseases and various disabilities. Sport makes it possible to compensate for some physical disorders and has a therapeutic function strengthening the person’s self-esteem. Nowadays, many areas of life can be adapted to the needs of people with various health issues. One of them is Adapted Physical Activity, which, following the example of Swedish Ling’s gymnastics, is centred around both a medical and educational model. The first involves the compensation of deficiencies resulting from damaged body structures, i.e. the technique of movement exercises. The second is the transmission of knowledge through pedagogy and psychology. Adapted Physical Activity can be an attractive form of rehabilitation fitting in with new standards and, additionally, a method of social integration. Adapting to the abilities of people with health difficulties and disabilities is not an extreme barrier. Today, people have access to a variety of proposals ranging from rehabilitation to a competitive sport. In the area of physical education, sport and recreation, there are activities adapted to our preferences and possibilities. Attractive aquatic activities, hippotherapy, motor activity programmes, mobility training or even fitness classes can all become the start of a habit essential to maintain one’s health. Everyone is able to find a remedy for themselves in the form of a particular physical activity. You just need to determine what you are capable of and pick the option that suits you best.

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About the author

Iwona Janas, PhD - Staff member of the Jagiellonian University Medical College Physical Education Department in Kraków with a doctoral degree in Physical Culture Sciences. Coach of the KU AZS Women’s Basketball team of the Jagiellonian University Medical College Physical Education Department. She earned her PhD from the Department of Psychology at the University School of Physical Education in Kraków in 2021. Her interests include psychology of sporting activity, in particular decision-making processes, leadership in sports and supporting the development of professional athletes and coaches. She is a 2nd class basketball trainer and a fitness trainer as well as an active basketball player. In 2017 she received the bronze badge of the Polish Basketball Association. In the 2021 poll carried out by Gazeta Krakowska and Dziennik Polski she won the title of the Athlete of the Decade of the Wieliczka district in the Women’s category.