News - January 31, 2019

Getting credits for going to the gym

Tessa Louwerens

Doing a PhD can be quite stressful and sports could help alleviate the stress, thinks Luana Souza Macedo. ’Doing sports helps me to clear my mind and feel reenergized.’

Luana Souza Macedo got her PhD on 29 January for her research on alternative catalysts that can be used to convert bio-based oils into chemicals.

Proposition: Being active in sports must be a requirement in a PhD program

‘I’ve always liked sports, but the idea for this proposition came last month when I was mainly at home writing my thesis. Sometimes I was very productive, but the next day I would feel tired and didn’t get that much done. I realized that when I did sports after work, I felt happier and more focused the next day. At first I went to the gym, but that was really boring. Then I started CrossFit, a combination of weightlifting, athletics and gymnastics. It is challenging and the training is different every day. When I was writing my thesis I would go four or five times a week. Sometimes, when I was biking to the CrossFit box after a working day, I was still thinking about my thesis, but once I was there I forgot about everything and came back home relaxed.

Being a PhD student can be quite stressful at times and I’ve also read reports saying that this is only increasing. I think this is quite a serious issue. WUR acknowledges this, but at the same time I don’t see much in the PhD programme that is designed to help alleviate stress. Sports have a positive effect on your psychological and physiological wellbeing. I’m from Brazil where it’s warm and sunny, and sports have really helped me especially during these cold, dark Dutch winters. It is also a good way to meet new people. As a PhD candidate, sometimes you are too isolated within your own research and especially for international PhD students it can be hard to build a social life.

Therefore, I think it would be a good idea to make sports an obligatory part of the PhD programme. Just like other courses in the programme that you can follow for ECTs. I think you do have to make it a requirement. The sports facilities are already available, but many PhD students don’t use them even when they are told about all the advantages of doing sports.’