Stress & Physical Activity
It’s almost that time of the year, when the semester is coming to an end and it seems as though every deadline is overlapping a test date. Yes, that dreaded time where you feel the excitement of the semester ending while being stressed about final projects and exams. Everyone seems to wonder, is there a remedy to this stress? Here’s some good news- there is a remedy, and it’s physical activity. Countless statistics show that stress can be relieved through a combination of meditation and physical activity. According to mayoclinic.org, “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.”
During exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are natural pain killers and often called the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. When stressed, the human body goes through a natural reaction called “fight or flight.” The anxious and tense feeling you experience when going through “fight or flight” happens because you are not responding to this evolutionarily-programmed occurrence. The proper response is physical activity. Taking some time to exercise also helps you shed daily tensions by focusing on what you are doing in that moment and not on other outside stressors. Higher energy levels and a more optimistic outlook are the results of taking time to exercise.
Finding Time To Move
The biggest question about exercise is, “How do I find time to fit in workouts into my already busy schedule?” Finding the time is easy, but finding the motivation can be difficult. Here are a few ways to incorporate exercise into a busy schedule:
- Walking/Biking to class. Walking the long way to class or hopping on the bike instead of driving across campus is a great way to get your heart pumping.
- Take the stairs. Avoiding the elevators and taking the stairs when going from floor to floor is a small but effective way to incorporate exercise into daily life.
- Hit the gym between classes. Have an hour between classes? Spend half of it in the gym! It can be hard to go after school, so push yourself to get there in between. It will go by quicker and you will have more energy before your next class.
- Sign up for an exercise class and treat it like a school course. Whether it’s yoga, Group X, or cycling, join an exercise class that fits your schedule and treat it as though it is a part of curriculum.
- Reward yourself. Set some personal goals and reward yourself when you reach them- i.e. treating yourself to your favorite restaurant after a week of reaching study and exercise goals.
- Joining intramural or club sports. The set schedule of intramural and club sports is a great motivation to get some physical activity in. Gather some friends from your classes and take study breaks by doing sports.
- Workout with a friend. A like-minded friend may be the perfect inspiration and reason to hit the gym or go for a walk in between study sessions or classes.
Set Up For Success
Whether you are running, doing yoga, or zumba dancing, you are ultimately teaching your body to turn to physical activity when stressed. Continuing this habit will lead to less stress and more success! Consider this information the next time you feel like your brain can’t hold anymore information during a study session, or your super anxious the night before a big exam. Whether you are a beginner or an athlete, physical activity will boost your confidence and help you focus when that “end-of-semester” stress begins.