Exercise for Students with an Online Learning Lifestyle

exercise for online students

Education has modified its platform to positively impact more students through different mediums. Meaning, identical courses are now being taught in different environments (i.e. online and hybrid). Specifically, online education has increased in popularity over the last decade, as it provides individuals with significantly more learning opportunities that were not present, prior to its existence. With that being said, many students with an online learning lifestyle may feel that it is problematic to perform regular exercise, as this a discipline that typically is conducted in an in-person or face-to-face environment. However, online education is now making steps towards creating exercise courses that will be eventually offered and provides instruction to this student population, like any other course (e.g. mathematics, history, etc.).

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” – John F. Kennedy


Regular exercise not only enhances the physical domain, but it also develops the cognitive and affective domains. Literature has shown that regular physical activity is essential for normal growth and development, and can improve cardiovascular capacity, musculoskeletal function and strength, body composition, while aiding in decreasing the obesity epidemic. Therefore, it will aid in lowering the risk of chronic disease in this population (Faigenbaum, 2015).  Also, performing a regular physical activity regimen has shown to enhance academic performance, improve self-esteem and self-confidence, which is ultimately accompanied by improvements in cognitive, mental, and emotional health (Faigenbaum, 2015; Lubans et al., 2016). However, more research needs to be conducted in order to explain the (multiple) mechanisms of how physical activity positively improves cognitive and mental health. With that being said, education, across any platform, needs to promote regular physical activity on a daily basis to obtain these benefits to live a healthy, happy, and productive life, and decrease the risk of premature death due to chronic disease. It is important to mention, proper nutrition is another essential variable to consider in order to live a healthy and happy life.

Currently, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends children and adolescents perform an hour or more of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise per day (Faigenbaum, 2015). Faigenbaum (2015) defines moderate intensity exercise “as [an] activity that increases breathing, sweating, and heart rate,” while “vigorous intensity substantially increases breathing, sweating, and heart rate.” More specifically, think of moderate intensity exercise as jogging to running, while thinking of vigorous intensity exercise as sprinting. It is important to note, go at your own pace and perform aerobic exercise that you enjoy (e.g. hiking, playing sports, running along the beach, etc.). In addition, if you are untrained or detrained (e.g. you trained previously, but have not trained in a long time), start at a lower to moderate intensity. Also, the training can be broken up into segments (e.g. two 30 minute segments or three 20 minute segments) or one can start the first week by performing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day (instead of 60 minutes). This ultimately can be broken down into 10-minute segments, if needed. Over time, first increase the duration in an individual’s training. Then, as an individual continues to progress, increase the intensity. It is important to remember, SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING! Therefore, start moving!

Resistance training should also be incorporated, if possible. There are multiple myths (i.e. stunt growth, unsafe, etc.) connected with this population and resistance training. A resistance training program, which is properly designed and supervised, is relatively safe, and improves muscular strength, power, skill performance and cardiovascular profile in the youth population. In addition, there are many neuromuscular adaptations that can aid in explain the improvements above. Lastly, this can enhance psychosocial well-being of the youth, and most importantly, “help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence” (Faigenbaum et al., 2009, p. S61). The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) provides these general youth resistance-training guidelines (Faigenbaum et al., 2009, p. S70):

  • “Provide qualified instruction and supervision
  • Start each training session with a 5-to 10-minute dynamic warm-up period
  • Begin with relatively light loads [weight] and always focus on the correct exercise technique
  • Perform 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions on a variety of upper- and lower-body strength exercises
  • Focus on symmetrical muscular development and appropriate muscle balance around joints
  • Increase the resistance gradually (5-10%) as strength improves
  • Cool-down with static stretching
  • Begin resistance training 2-3 times per week on nonconsecutive days [24-48 hours rest/recovery between sessions]
  • Optimize performance recovery with health nutrition, proper hydration, and adequate sleep
  • Support and encouragement from instructors and parents will help maintain interest”


From an Exercise Scientist, and Strength and Conditioning Professional viewpoint, I recommend, start to perform the type of exercise or exercises you enjoy the most. Therefore, if you like to run, run . . . if you like to perform resistance training, perform resistance training . . . if you like to play sport, play sport, and the list goes on and on. Literature and anecdotal experience has displayed that if an individual can increase enjoyment and autonomy when performing an activity (i.e. exercise) that individual can potentially maximize his or her effort, aid in enhancing activity adherence, and improve one’s self-efficacy and confidence for that specific activity. The great thing about exercise, it can be performed anytime, anywhere. Minimal to no equipment is needed to obtain the benefits mentioned above. The most significant component to obtain the benefits of an exercise program, or any program for that matter is consistency. Have fun, be consistent, and continue to learn and develop as an individual. However, it can be argued, that many students in general, do not necessarily not want to exercise, but the reason for not exercising, is that he or she does not know how to proper perform exercise. For this reason, I have provided website links and instagram accounts – exercise science and nutrition professionals. This should help you start your exercise journey to living a happier and healthier life. Please feel free to reach out to me, if you need any help. I will gladly support your journey.

Website Links


Instagram Exercise Science and Nutrition Professionals

  • Matty_C4 (Myself)
  • Bretcontreras1 (Bret “Glute Guy” Contreras, PhD, CSCS)
  • Drandygalpin (Andy Galpin, PhD, CSCS, Professor)
  • Dr__r0b (Robert Willhite, Doctor of Chiropractic, CSCS)
  • Ramsey_nijem (Ramsey Nijem, Head Performance/Strength Coach Sacramento Kings – NBA, and Doctor of Science Candidate, CSCS)
  • dorantes (Vegas Golden Knights Massage Therapist – NHL)
  • Andrematt5on (Andre Mattson, MS, Director of Strength and Conditioning, CSCS)
  • Jones_strength (Kim Jones, MA, IFBB Pro and Performance Coach, CSCS)
  • Tdathletesedge (Tim Difrancesco, DPT, CSCS, Former LA Lakers Strength and Conditioning Coach)
  • Movementasmedicine
  • Themovementmaestro (C. Shante Cofield, DPT, CSCS)
  • Benbrunotraining (Ben Bruno, Personal Trainer)
  • Soheefit (Sohee Lee, MS(c), CSCS, CISSN)
  • Thealanaragon (Alan Aragon)
  • Coachpjnestler (PJ Nestler, Director of Performance XPTlife and Combat Sports Training Specialist)
  • Theprehabguys (DPTS and CSCS)


Disclaimer – Please consult your doctor prior to exercising. The author shall not be responsible for any of the risks associated with physical activity, which include but are not limited to physical or psychological injury, pain, suffering, illness, disfigurement, temporary or permanent disability (including paralysis), economic or emotional loss, and/or death. He has provided literature and expert recommendations, relating to exercise and the associated benefits. Nonetheless, you assume all related risks, both known or unknown to me, of your participation in physical activity.



Faigenbaum, A. D. (2015). Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents. American        College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-        source/brochures/physical-activity-in-children-and-adolescents.pdf

Faigenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J. R., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka,    M., & Rowland, T. W. (2009). Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position     Statement from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Journal of             Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(Supplement 5), S60-S79.

Lubans, D., Richards, J., Hillamn, C., Faulkner, G., Beauchamp, M., Nilsson, M., Kelly,   P., Smith, J., Raine, L., & Biddle, S. (2016). Physical Activity for Cognitive and            Mental Health in Youth: A Systematic Review of Mechanisms. Pediatrics,   138(3).


About the Author:

Matthew Cain, PhD Student – Health & Human Performance, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F

Assistant Professor of Exercise Science & Strength and Conditioning Coach

San Diego Miramar College