The importance of living an active lifestyle is something you hear all the time.
“It’ll make you look good!”
“You’ll be hotter if you work out!”
“It’s the healthy thing to do!”
That last line has a double meaning. Most people think of being physically healthy as having an average-to-hot body type (all though, what IS average these days??) and not having any major health concerns or diseases. Exercise certainly helps with both of those things, and they are important in their own ways, but there’s one other factor that gets over looked when talking about fitness.
These days it’s super stressful to be a college-aged girl. Classes, jobs, social lives, and the pressure to “do-it-all, perfectly” can add up. That’s a lot for one person to handle.
1 out of every 4 college aged students has some form of mental health problem – most commonly depression and/or anxiety.
While there are many ways to handle both of those, as well as your everyday stress, the easiest – and sometimes cheapest – way is through an active lifestyle.
Exercise releases stress and tension
Even just a 20-minute walk when things start getting overwhelming can help clear your head, allowing you to better tackle the challenges that lie ahead. If you’ve ever left the gym feeling calmer than when you walked in, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Exercise gives you endorphins
“Endorphins make you happy.” Elle Woods was dead-on in her argument that Brooke Windham was too happy to kill her husband because of all the exercise she did. Endorphins are a chemical produced by the pituitary gland and the central nervous system that inhibit pain signal transmissions, leading to feelings of happiness. In some studies, endorphins worked just as well as antidepressants in helping to heal patients with depression.
Scheduling time to work out reduces anxiety
People with anxiety can sometimes feel their symptoms coming on when they have no set schedule to their day-to-day activities. Penciling a certain time every day to get your sweat on alleviates some of that anxiety. Even if the rest of your day is hard, knowing you’ve got yoga at 6:00 pm can bring a sense of relief to someone who is otherwise overwhelmed.
In general, scheduling time at the gym or a fitness class will help you stick to a fitness routine. Classes especially hold you accountable because you’ve already signed up for it, and most likely already paid for it.
Exercise can help you relax
Okay, so maybe doing High Intensity Interval Training or taking a spin class for the first time won’t cause you to relax, but there are other options! A gentle yoga class is one of the best ways to get relaxation from your workout. Nervous about keeping up? Sign up for a beginner level class! I would recommend a Hatha yoga class or a level one Vinyasa, just make sure it’s not in a heated room. Some studios even offer restorative yoga, where you lie in various poses supported by pillowy props; a good choice at the end of a stressful day of classes. Other good options for relaxing exercise are talking a walk, going for a light run or bike ride, or non-strenuous swimming.
Exercise can improve your confidence
No matter what form of exercise you choose to partake in, it can make you feel better about yourself, which ultimately helps improve your mental clarity. Those who are depressed often do not feel that they are good enough. Also, teens and young adults are constantly comparing themselves to supermodels, which leads to negative body images. Taking the time to work out proves to yourself that you are worth it because look what your body can do! It’s important to understand that results do not happen over night, but any little change or improvement is cause for celebration. Slowly, but surely, you will find that you begin to love yourself just the way you are, which does wonders for the rest of your life.
So now that you know how exercise ultimately will benefit your life mentally here are some tips to help you get started.
- If you’re pressed for time, make sure you at least get 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week. Taking a walk after breakfast or lunch is a great way to sneak that in.
- Check out what kind of gyms and studios are within walking (or short driving) distance from where you live. The closer it is, the more likely you’ll go.
- If you don’t like one form of exercise don’t get discouraged. Try something else. We can’t all be runners or yogis, but there is something out there for you.
- Follow some fitness gurus on Instagram to help motivate you. BuzzFeed just posted a great article on people to follow!
- If you’re worried about not sticking to a plan, find a like-minded friend to hold you accountable OR check out my post on CHAARG – a fitness organization that’s empowering girls to get off the elliptical and into healthier lifestyles
- Most importantly, do not give up. I can’t stress how important it is to stick to being active in general. You are going to have some bad days, and you need to know that it’s okay. They happen. If you miss a workout, just shrug it off, and start again tomorrow.