Stress and anxiety levels are commonly high amongst college students, increasing throughout the semester with tests and deadlines slowly creeping up. The physical benefits of exercise, such as weight loss, decrease in blood pressure, and general heart health, have been discussed for many years with plenty of research to back them . But recently there has been a lot of research involving the mental benefits of exercise. Most of the mental benefits come from the release of endorphins and improvements in sleep which cause a decrease in levels of stress and anxiety. While college students may have a full load of classes, with jobs to top it off, they are also the most time-flexible population with the least amount of obstacles to exercise. So why don’t stressed college students just go to the wellness center for some well-deserved stress relief? The problem is that a lot of them don’t know where to begin! The following are simple exercise guidelines that can help reduce stress and anxiety levels for beginners:
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or classmate.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most people starting an exercise program take about four to eight weeks for the exercise to start to feel easier.
Use these guidelines to get started with your stress relief and keep finding new exercises that you enjoy!