It’s that dreaded season again: spring. Whether you’re a fourth-year getting ready to cross the country for residency or a first-year readying for exams, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that spring is a stressful time for most of us. The stress of this time of the year is doubly compounded if, like me, you have such bad allergies that you resemble a sniffling, red-eyed zombie within 20 minutes of going outdoors.
As I’ve said before, exercise is one of the best ways to alleviate stress. Several studies have found a positive correlation between general exercise and alleviation of depression and anxiety, prevention of mental health disorders and lower relapses of depressive bouts. In particular, aerobic exercise, such as cycling, has been linked to a reduction in anxiety and depression. With these thoughts in mind, I decided my next adventure would be to take a spin class at my local gym. Although it may not be super exciting, it seemed like the perfect match for somebody like me who doesn’t have too much time or money and doesn’t want to sneeze up a storm outside.
I knew that the spin class would involve three main things: cycling, sweating and being yelled at by a motivational spin coach. Besides these three things, I didn’t know what to expect. When I arrived at the spin class with a few friends in tow, I was a little intimidated to see that the room was already half-full, with most bikes in the first couple rows claimed. My friends wouldn’t let me turn back, so I hopped onto a bike (after someone adjusted my handlebars and seat) and started warming up. It didn’t take long for our instructor to arrive, and as she got on her bike, the screen in front of us flickered to read: “Tour de France Stage 14.” The lights dimmed and we began warming up as a group. I can do this, I thought, relieved that the darkness would hide my obvious inexperience. My relief was short-lived, however. A few moments later, the instructor shouted at us to “take a full turn up,” and people rose from their seats, hovering over the saddle. I frantically tried to catch my friend’s eye — what turn? Why would I get up from my perfectly comfortable seat? In my panic of trying to find the resistance knob while simultaneously standing up, I ended up falling off of my bike. To the class’s credit, I didn’t hear anyone snickering as I got back up on my seat.
The good news is that, after an hour’s time, I started to enjoy the sensation of riding while standing (and without falling). I wasn’t able to match most of the others in terms of resistance — it seemed that “take a full turn up” was the mantra of the day. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed my experience. Would I go back? Probably. I especially would in the spring when exercising outdoors isn’t an option for me and when I’ve grown tired of the treadmill or elliptical. In addition to it being enjoyable, there’s the added benefit of convenience: it shouldn’t be too hard for anybody to find a nearby spin class with affordable prices. Also, cycling has a very “team-y” feeling about it, which fosters a sense of community and offers additional motivation to stay active. As studies have shown, club-based or team-based sports produce better health outcomes compared to individual activities due to the social fulfillment they provide. Overall, I’d say that, while my life perspectives haven’t changed drastically from participating in a spin class, the convenience and social aspect of this activity definitely make this one a repeat in my books.
A very important topic is that of mental health in medical practitioners, notably medical students. According to a study in the Student British Medical Journal, 30 percent of medical students report having a mental health condition — with a majority of 80 percent stating the level of available support was poor or only moderately adequate. This column was born from these alarming statistics and aims to stimulate conversation on mental health in medical students, from providing suggestions on how to maintain one’s mental health to discussing the taboo and stigma surrounding conversations on mental health in practitioners and students, and how to eliminate it.