Exercise helps students cope with stressful college life

College brings the stress of classes, work and a social life. Trying to manage all these may leave students feeling overwhelmed.

In 2012, more than 40 percent of college students reported having more than the average amount of stress in a 12-month period, according to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment.

Exercise is important for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show it is effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration and, enhancing overall cognitive function, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.

Funded by student fees, the Student Recreation Center is a good place to start exercising, said SRC fitness coordinator Glenda Richey.

There is a social aspect to exercise too, she said. Students meet people who may share common interests or may be dealing with the same problems.

Being a college student is stressful, said junior Hollie McGough.

“I definitely come to the gym as an anti-stress (mechanism),” she said. “This is my time.”

Just five minutes of exercise at a time can be beneficial, said Jami Flippo, a mental health counselor at Student Counseling Services. Doing something as simple as taking a brisk walk across campus can help.

“It certainly does change the chemistry and the way our bodies work,” she said.

Stress is attributed to several health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, Flippo said.

“Seventy to 90 percent of all visits to primary physicians are because of stress-related disorders,” she said.

Think of the brain like the heart, she said.

“If your heart was working hard all the time and never slowed down, it couldn’t take it,” Flippo said.

Richey said she sees the stress on the faces of the students who come to the SRC and suggests exercise as a way to combat it.

Students have less time to focus on what is causing them stress when they are exercising, she said.

Exercise should be a part of everyone’s daily routine, she said.

“Make exercise the coping mechanism to stress,” Richey said. “When you do start to exercise you feel like you have some control in your life.”

Stepping away from what is causing the stress, finding something enjoyable to do and getting the heart pumping enables a person to come back more focused, Flippo said.

“It’s a transfer of energy from inside to out, and it kind of gives you that balance,” she said.

Yoga and meditation are also excellent ways to combat stress, she said.

“Your mind is powerful,” she said. “If you feel like you feel better, then oftentimes you feel better.”

Richey agreed and said getting a massage is also a good way to get the mind off things.

“Just do 30 minutes of (physical activity) to get your mind off your troubles,” she said.