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Making Time for Your Health Is Vital in Med School

Finding time for anything beyond studying is a challenge for most medical students, but working out in medical school is vital for the body and the mind, says Erica Tukiainen, a rising fourth-year PRIME student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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Tukiainen has always been athletically minded. As an undergraduate, she played on and served as captain of the UCLA Women's Basketball Team. Prior to medical school, she spent a couple of years at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health working with the late Antronette K. Yancey, MD, MPH, a UCLA professor, to create physical activity breaks, called "Instant Recess," for low-income communities, workplaces and schools.

"Life can get busy and there isn't much time for working out in medical school," Tukiainen says. "But there is always a way to fit a workout in."

Here are five simple workouts Tukiainen says can be creatively incorporated into a busy study schedule.

Do Yoga

Yoga is low impact, but it also invigorates the entire body. Medical students tend to be stressed out, and yoga is an effective way to refocus and clear the mind, and can be a useful relaxation technique.

"The reason yoga is good for medical students is the mindfulness part, and the connection between the body and the mind," Tukiainen explains. "The whole idea of yoga is to do what feels right for your body."

Go for a Run or a Walk

Medical students spend a lot of time indoors, but spending some time outdoors is good for both the body and the soul. Being outside boosts energy and lifts the mood. Running or walking is a simple way to get out of the study room or the classroom and enjoy some fresh air.

"Twenty to 30 minutes of running or walking is a great way for students to enjoy some California sunshine, get back in touch with the environment and reorient themselves."

Slip on Those Dancing Shoes

Dancing is a fantastic way to work out and have some fun. Students at UCLA can put on their dancing shoes and head to the John Wooden Center, where they can sign up for a salsa class.

"It's really wonderful, because you are in a group setting. You don't have to have a dance partner with you; it's a great way to socialize and the instructors are great. You work up a good sweat, as well as have a nice laugh with some friends."

Perform High-Intensity Training Circuits

High-intensity training circuits are a popular choice for working out in medical school. But for those who don't feel comfortable lifting weights or getting on the treadmill, there are some simple moves that don't require equipment. Tukiainen recommends a combination of push-ups and squats.

"Students can combine these into a great workout where they choose one move and do 20 reps, and then go on to the next move and do 20 reps. Then take a quick water break and start the circuit again."

Take 'Instant Recess' Breaks

For students who would prefer to take three 10-minute workout breaks during a two-hour study session, rather than spend 30 minutes at the gym, Tukiainen suggests going on YouTube and searching for "Instant Recess."

"An instructor will begin with basic stretching, such as neck rolls and shoulder rolls, leading into movements that involve raising your hands and dancing, moves that will really get the blood flowing but are safe and easy for any age. You don't have to change into gym clothes. You don't have to worry about getting super sweaty. It just gets your heart rate up and gets you moving."

(Related Article: Staying Healthy in Medical School Takes Planning)