Every person, young and old, has a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety. A frequently unknown fact that many students and others are coming to understand is the vast connection between physical and mental health. If one falls, so will the other. Whether it be a gaining of weight, and a plummet of mental health due to confidence, or vice versa, these aspects of the umbrella term “health” are synchronous. Over the course of the coronavirus quarantine, and as the world is returning to “normal life,” many people have resorted to the usage of exercise as a coping mechanism. Whether it be a small jog around the neighborhood or an ab workout routine on your bedroom floor, the smallest act of exercise is seeming to help people feel better.
“Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function,” said Sharma, A., Madaan, V., Petty F.D., National Institute of Health.
If you are physically fit, then you are mentally fit. Exercise for many is not only a mental stress release, but it is also a serotonin release. The feeling of self-improvement and the confidence boost that follows carries on not only throughout the course of the workout, but even into your day following the activity.
“Exercise is absolutely a stress relief for me. I can confidently say that it saves my life to the point that I can’t go a day without it. I work out hard in the morning, so it starts my day right and it carries throughout all my other tasks,” said Adam Wosahla, Junior, Christopher Newport University Men’s Track and Field.
Whether you’re a college athlete like Adam or not, the benefits are easily understandable. As previously stated, many people are discovering the need for physical activity. Whether or not a person began a workout regime due to necessity, or sheer boredom, the drive is there for many. And the mental ease that follows physical exercise far exceeds just the confidence boosts. It even has a positive effect on your brain’s chemical levels.
“Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions—in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections,” said Gingell, S., Psychology Today.
Physical activity literally helps your brain do its job. Not only are you increasing the health of your psyche, but you are also improving your brain’s fundamental capabilities. Physical exercise is often the last thing people think of to aid with stress relief. Though with scientific facts and first-hand testaments, the proof is there. It is simply a matter of stepping out of your comfort zone and beginning to exercise regularly.
The greatest, and quite possibly most reassuring aspect of exercise, is there are so many outlets for it, all with different benefits. Do you need more natural, raw energy? Then start running, build endurance, and improve your cardiovascular system. If you’re lacking in size, lift some weights. If you’re lacking in flexibility, begin a yoga regime. All of these types of exercises improve many aspects of our general wellbeing. And with a better mental state, free from stress and anxiety, an individual can accomplish so much more each day.
“Exercise, and sports, in general, help me so much with stress relief, and higher energy levels. Overall, exercise improves my mood, especially when I’m working out with the team. It gives me confidence, and puts me at ease for the rest of the day,” said Anna Dean, a Sophomore at Christopher Newport University and a player of Women’s Volleyball.
Whether you work out with a team or not like Anna is up to you. If it’s a social activity that gets you up on your feet, then, by all means, make it social.
With all the outlets of physical activity possible, there seems to be little reason not to include exercise in your schedule. Some of us are still stuck in our homes. Whether you’re immuno-compromised, a student partaking in online school, or a virtual worker, exercise can liven up your day. Not everyone is going to be a complete “gym rat,” but by just starting your day with a walk around your neighborhood, you embrace many extra positive effects. From your brain to your body, to your mental headspace, exercise is an aid to these all.
No matter where you are in life, or how busy you might be or feel, just 30 minutes of exercise can make a world of difference. Go out, get a sweat in, and let the benefits speak for themselves.