How Fitness Can Help Decrease Stress and Anxiety in College

This article was originally written for Fresh U by Lindsay Wigo. It has been given minor edits before re-posting.

Throughout the past fall semester, I found myself going to the gym very often with one motive in mind: drop a few pounds. I wanted to avoid gaining any weight from the food and temptations that surrounded me at college. However, I’m the type of person who gets into routines very easily. After going to the gym every day for a week, it became second nature. I made it a part of my daily routine to get my workout in. I became so used to heading over to the gym that I barely thought anything of it.

Over winter break, I started going to workout classes at a gym near me. Going to workout classes was a first for me, but my experiences were incredible. I tried kettlebells, piloxing, Zumba, pound, and core de force for the first time. I loved the variety of the classes, and I could see more toning and definition in my arms only after one week of classes.

At 19 years old, however, it isn’t always convenient to go to the gym. I make plans, I sleep in, I have homework and sometimes, I just want to give myself time to relax in my room. What I found interesting was how an opposite effect occurred whenever I couldn’t make it to the gym. When I would be away from the gym for a rest day, all I wanted was to go back. It had become my stress and anxiety reliever.

I realized that working out consistently allowed me to subconsciously set goals for myself. I established a routine and utilized it every time I stepped foot in the gym. I would spend an hour each day completely zoning out and forgetting all of my worries. My mental health was at its best when I would go to the gym and work on myself.

I learned that working on myself physically helps me when I feel like I cannot control myself mentally. When I blast music and start my workout, it takes me out of the environment and puts me in another world for a little bit.

I started researching how fitness can help with not only physical health but mental health. I was excited to see that there was scientific evidence behind this phenomenon that I saw occurring right before my eyes.

According to HealthGuide, “As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.”

HealthGuide also explains that exercise is a very effective anxiety treatment because “it relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins.”

I know what you’re thinking: it can be hard to get back in the gym. Below are some of my suggestions to get that gym flow flowing again.

  1. Buy workout gear that makes you feel confident.
    Feeling confident and comfortable is important when you’re working out. It doesn’t hurt to have cute workout clothes, either! Check out Target, Fabletics or Forever 21 for some inspiration.
  2. Have a game plan ahead of time.
    Staying on a workout plan when you go to the gym will keep you motivated to finish what you wanted to start! It also prevents unwanted lingering.
  3. Create a workout playlist.
    The best workouts have music blasting! Choose some that make you feel stronger mentally and physically.
  4. Bring a friend for the ride.
    Getting a friend in on the fitness action motivates you both and increases accountability!
  5. Listen to your body.
    Do not expect to be an expert on your first day, or even your first week. Only lift and run as much as you can. Take breaks when you need a break, and drink plenty of water!

If you are apprehensive to get back in the gym for any reason, but interested in finding a natural, healthy stress and anxiety reliever, take my word that it does wonders for you both mentally and physically. Nothing makes me feel more confident than being drenched in sweat after working on myself. An hour is all it takes to feel great.

I used to go to the gym to make myself physically stronger, but soon realized that I am not only making physical gains, but mental ones, too. My mental health is now my motivator to keep moving forward.

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