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Mind and Body: The Benefits of Exercise for College Students’ Mental Health

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As a college student, staying fit and getting in shape might not seem like much of a priority. Finding the time to exercise is often tricky when balancing the need to study and attend lectures, all while maintaining an active social life.

But it turns out that exercise can have real benefits for your mental health, your studies, and your ability to perform well in exams. Of course, it also has the added benefit of keeping you in shape, which is never a bad thing!

If you’re studying or are planning to do so in the future, you need to ensure that you stay active. Here’s why.

Physical Health

Exercise will improve your physical health. Eating well, getting enough sleep, and not overindulging in alcohol significantly benefit your health, too. But exercise plays an incredibly crucial role.

Being in fit shape can help you deliver a stronger academic performance. It may seem counterintuitive, but often when you least feel like exercise, doing a low-intensity workout—even a walk around the campus—can initiate the release of energizing “happy hormones” and chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.

These chemicals have the effect of giving your body an energy boost.

Developing a healthy regular exercise pattern will improve how your body manages dips in energy. This comes in useful when you’re pushing through those final minutes of an exam. When your body is accustomed to giving a little extra, you can beat the fatigue and stay focused until the clock runs down.

Brain Development

Even small amounts of exercise prompt your brain to develop new connections and stronger mental habits. When you exercise, proteins such as myelin are physically released into the bloodstream by your nervous system. These proteins have a dual impact:

First, they enable the brain to create and grow new nerves.

Second, they make existing brain cells stronger and help them survive longer.

Small bouts of exercise trigger the release of these proteins, with the net effect of creating a stronger brain.

The part of the brain that deals with memory is very responsive to the proteins released during exercise. The cells in this area of the brain become stronger and create new connections that aid memory. This can aid students in retaining information they read or hear in lectures, boosting their academic performance.

Levels of Concentration

Going through bouts of intense exercise of no more than 20 minutes can boost your ability to concentrate.

Intense exercise helps blood flow around the body faster, as oxygen levels in the bloodstream rise when you take deep breaths. This has benefits for students, as the blood flow promotes cell growth and kick starts certain brain areas.

Physical activity helps students concentrate better and has lasting effects throughout the day. Exercise quickly and easily gives a boost to concentration, assisting students to engage in learning while attending lectures or studying,

Other mindful practices like meditation and yoga are great ways for improving learning engagement. Yoga is a super idea for students, as it encourages mindfulness and focuses thinking while engaging the body through physical movements.

Improved Mood

Many college students struggle with mood fluctuations as they navigate busy schedules, classes, assignments, social lives, and new relationships.

A busy social life, followed by intense learning periods, with numerous breaks during the year, creates a turbulent lifestyle. Getting bad academic results or feeling anxious about upcoming exams can have a negative impact on a student’s mood.

Exercise is often recommended to treat mild cases of depression and low mood. Because of the release of chemicals in the body when you work out, it often helps to lift your mood. Since exercise doesn’t have the possible side effects of taking medication, it’s a great option to try first.

Stress is another central area of concern for students and young adults moving into the working world. Stress can come from all aspects of life. Work stress, home stress, social stress, and a wide range of emotional stress quickly add up.

College students face a wide variety of stresses that they have never had to deal with before. Some manage this better than others, but nobody can completely hide from them.

Exam periods often create a huge amount of anxiety in students. The release of chemicals during exercise can help combat stress. Just taking a walk down the road can help clear your mind and give you new perspectives. While it might seem like the last thing you feel like during stressful times, exercise often provides some great solutions.

Social Connections

Staying fit is a great way to meet other like-minded students. Sitting in a lecture hall provides little opportunity to meet people. However, getting out and participating in physical activities is an excellent ice-breaker. It allows students time to connect and form friendships and relationships. For students struggling to meet people or make friends, joining an athletic club or team or doing full body workouts in a group provides plenty of opportunities to meet new people—and you already have a common interest.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

We have all heard the mantra that a healthy body equals a healthy mind. Even though it sounds like a cliché, there is definite truth in it.

Exercise holds so many solutions for college students. It has definite value for them.

Staying fit can relieve stress and help to lift your mood. It has direct benefits to the brain, improving concentration, allowing for better engagement in learning, and improving memory. Of course, it’s also a great way to meet like-minded students and form new bonds.

Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it’s good for your mind, too. Getting active provides an abundance of benefits for students of all ages. Reaping these benefits is as simple as getting off the couch and getting going.


Author Bio: Donna Jefferson is a writer, editor, and health and wellness enthusiast covering topics on parenting and senior health. Donna leads a fairly active lifestyle and enjoys sweating it out at the gym or going on hikes with friends during her free time.

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The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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