Higher education is great for exercising your brain but don’t forget to work out your body, too.

Fitness and recreation programs, often found in abundance at any university or college campus, can offer a fun and effective way to stay healthy and keep your energy levels up in the classroom.

“Fitness definitely translates into the academic setting. You’ll be more aware, more awake and more alert,” said Jill Cressy, an assistant program manager who overseas fitness, dance and martial arts classes at the University of Toronto.

Cressy says intramural sports teams and fitness classes aren’t just for athletes and most schools across Canada offer a wealth of programs ranging from casual to advanced levels.

If you do join a program, don’t neglect weight and strength training because they are crucial in helping develop your body’s general health.

Michael Eagles, athletics director at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B., says while losing weight is one obvious effect of exercise, the ultimate goal of any fitness program should be overall health.

“Losing weight is a benefit when you start, but you should do it because you want to live a healthy lifestyle. Exercise leads to an overall improvement in your outlook and your well-being. People who exercise feel better day in and day out,” Eagles said.

Dr. Tish Doyle-Baker, an associate professor at the University of Calgary who researches health issues, says one overlooked benefit of joining fitness and recreation programs is the shared support they provide.

“Exercise really promotes a social support system — other people are there and they offer encouragement and you offer encouragement back,” Dr. Doyle-Baker said.

Whether it’s joining a volleyball intramural team, a morning job club or taking yoga classes, Dr. Doyle-Baker suggests making use of all the fitness resources your campus has to offer in a way that excites you.

“Get out there and do something you really like,” she said.

Cressy agrees, adding that choosing activities which you find fun often makes the biggest difference in whether you’ll keep exercising.

“When it comes to sticking to a program, it’s really about finding something that’s fun and joyful. When it has those elements of fun and joy, people are more likely to stick with it,” Cressy said.