By: Michele Lum, Healthy Aggies Intern
After another 10 weeks of classes and 1 horrifying finals week, we’ve finally reached what we have all been waiting for: Spring Break!!! We can finally let go of those organic chemistry mechanisms (briefly) and think about other things. It may be hard to think about much else if you neglected your mental health during finals; however if you’re looking for a simple, healthy, and inexpensive cure for your finals hangover, I’ve got the solution for you! Studies have shown that exercise is a great way to improve mental health below you’ll find 5 ways on how it can help!
- Mood Enhancement
When you exercise, feel-good endorphins and dopamine (natural cannabis-like brain chemicals) are released in the brain. They improve your mood and make you feel happier. Concentrating on exercise also helps get your mind off worries and other negative thoughts that may feed into depression or anxiety. Research has shown that people who were previously active and then became inactive were more prone to depression than those who maintained their activity throughout the study.
- Boost Brainpower
Physical activity can also boost your memory and increase your ability to learn new things. When you sweat, it stimulates the production of cells in the hippocampus: the part of your brain responsible for memory and learning. Cardiovascular exercise in particular has been shown to improve brain processes such as decision making, higher thinking and learning. If you have trouble memorizing material for your quizzes or midterms, exercising regularly can help out with that!
- Increase Productivity
Feel lethargic or sleepy while studying? Exercise helps boost your energy and allows you to be more productive and less sleepy throughout the day so you can get more work done. There is also an increase in blood flow, which improves your awareness and alertness. This allows you to complete tasks more efficiently and possibly with higher quality.
- Illness Prevention
One of the most common known benefits to exercise is illness prevention. When you are sick, it is hard to juggle attending all your classes while giving your body time to recover. During a fast paced 10 week quarter system, missing class can really put you behind. Exercising routinely can help develop a stronger immune system, which protects you from getting sick during flu season. The increase in blood flow during exercise helps release accumulated toxins and exercising regularly can improve your heart health, endurance. Additionally burning that energy can aid in weight loss, which then reduces your risk for heart disease and diabetes in the long run. It can also improve muscle strength and endurance.
- Improve Self-Confidence
A lot of the activities at the gym are not easy. Running may seem simple, but for some running even a mile is a killer. Working out routinely and improving on different activities gives you a sense of accomplishment that builds self-confidence. It demonstrates that as long as you put effort into a goal, it can be attained. In addition, the enhancement that exercise brings forth in mood, brainpower, and productivity encourages a more positive and confident version of yourself.
Exercise is customizable. You can go outside for a jog, use the elliptical or lift weights. There is no one correct way to do it, so grab your running shoes, put on your workout clothes and get moving. Track your physical and mental health progress over a few weeks. If you’ve noticed some improvement in your mental health, then you will know that it really did work out.