Skip to content mail-pink
(+27) 21 659 5600 mobile-notch-thin

Raising the bar for student health and wellness

Being a student is tough, from long days and sleepless nights to the stresses and anxiety and the constant need to perform. Once you add on top of this packed schedules, the need for a healthy life balance and healthy daily habits becomes apparent. One such healthy habit that contributes to this balance is exercise, and the scientific evidence is stacking up fast, showing that regular exercise provides important cognitive benefits that could make students’ lives a little less taxing (1) . In this blog post we will briefly dive into five of the many reasons to incorporate exercise into your daily life as a student, and we will also touch on why a gym is the perfect place to raise the bar for student health and wellness.

Enhances Cognitive Development

Exercise has profound effects on the brain, directly supporting and enhancing cognitive development by increasing synaptic plasticity through synaptic structure alterations and potentiating synaptic strength (2). In addition to this, exercise strengthens the underlying systems that support plasticity including neurogenesis, metabolism and vascular function. These exercise-induced structural and functional changes have been documented in various brain regions, and greatly contribute to the overall cognitive functioning of students (2).


Improves Memory Retention

The hippocampus is a structure in the brain that facilitates the formation, retention, and recall of memories (1). This is a very important structure in the process of learning. The hippocampus starts to shrink from your late 20s, resulting in memory loss over time. Luckily for us, a 2011 study found that aerobic exercise is effective at reversing hippocampal volume loss, which is accompanied by improved memory function (3). Thus not only does exercise, enhance cognitive development, but it also enhances your ability to retain information.


Increases Focus and Concentration

Students require high levels of focus and concentration in order to maximise their learning. We know that exercise has been shown to positively affect cognitive performance (4), but in addition to this, exercise could lead to a pre-activation of parts of the brain which are also responsible for mediating functions like attention. Therefore, exercise has the ability to prime the brain to be more attentive (4).


Boosts Mood

A large number of studies have shown that exercise profoundly improves your mood (1). As early as 1999, studies were being conducted that assessed the effects of exercise on depression. One particular study had participants work out while others took a well-known anti-depressant medication (5). As the study concluded, it was apparent that the exercise group showed as much improvement in mood as the medication group did. In a student’s world, where you need to maintain a positive attitude to succeed, there is great mood enhancing benefits to be had from regular exercise.


Relieves Stress

Students are exposed daily to situations, where the first response is often that of stress. Managing this stress is an important key to a healthy life balance. Exercise has the capacity to reduce the levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol and stimulate the production of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators (6). This stress relief taken with the above mood boosting benefits of exercise, is a vital tool for students to take hold of.


So how do we apply this? Exercise can be done in a variety of settings; outside, at the gym, or at home, making it a truly accessible health and wellness activity. However, a gym can provide all the tools necessary for students to reap the benefits of exercise, due to the environment allowing the incorporation of aerobic, resistance, high intensity, and group-based exercise. This allows a gym to not be just a place for physical benefits, but also social, mental, and cognitive benefits. Here, with a focus on student wellbeing, we have outlined only some of the key benefits of exercise.


These five crucial benefits mentioned above, that will greatly enhance students’ wellbeing, are just the tip of the iceberg, and they are not experienced in isolation. When assessed holistically, the extensive benefits of exercise sound too good to be true, yet the science and evidence is growing, proving that exercise truly is medicine for a student’s brain.


Find out more  about SSISA's Student Membership for our Fitness Centre here!



  1. Zahmak, M. (2013, 06 25). Western Kentucky University. Retrieved from Google:
  1. Cotman, C. W., Berchtold, N. C., & Christie, L. A. (2007). Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation. Trends in neurosciences30(9), 464–472. 
  1. Erickson, K. I., Voss, M. W., Prakash, R. S., Basak, C., Szabo, A., Chaddock, L., Kim, J. S., Heo, S., Alves, H., White, S. M., Wojcicki, T. R., Mailey, E., Vieira, V. J., Martin, S. A., Pence, B. D., Woods, J. A., McAuley, E., & Kramer, A. F. (2011). Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America108(7), 3017–3022.
  1. Budde, H., Voelcker-Rehage, C., Pietrabyk-Kendziorra, S., Ribeiro, P., & Tidow, G. (2008). Acute coordinative exercise improves attentional performance in adolescents.Neuroscience letters441(2), 219–223.
  1. Blumenthal, J. A., Babyak, M. A., Moore, K. A., Craighead, W. E., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Waugh, R., Napolitano, M. A., Forman, L. M., Appelbaum, M., Doraiswamy, P. M., & Krishnan, K. R. (1999). Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression.Archives of internal medicine159(19), 2349–2356.
  1. Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, 07 07). Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from Google: