Therapy that is Exercise: Sometimes the Occasional Face Mask Isn't Enough

We have finally reached a point in time where our society is shining a light on mental health. From face masks to full-blown therapy, we are acknowledging how significant our mental health is to us as a species. Constantly promoting new healthy ways to cope and unwind our brains, fitness has been on the rise. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly can be a difficult task as a busy college student. Dealing with classes and a job can be stressful enough, and most of us ask ourselves if we even have the time to squeeze in the gym. I'm here to tell you that exercising goes beyond the stereotypical "I want to look toned" and "I want to be healthier." Of course, a balanced lifestyle is essential for your health. But did you know that exercising has been known to treat mild depression and anxiety? It's also known as a great way to cope with stress and has been linked to better sleep, more energy, and a sharper memory. 

The deeper you dig into the fitness life, the more you realize the mental health benefits outweigh the aesthetics. My own fitness journey did begin with the strive to look a certain way. Quickly, the feeling of getting up and sweating it out became addicting. It was like a drug, and then it all clicked. 

 

You spent an hour pushing your body and sweating your life away, so why do you feel so happy?

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That happy feeling often referred to as a "runner's high" is caused when your body releases all of these happy chemicals to your brain after a workout. Exercising is a form of releasing dopamine (a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and happiness) and raising your serotonin levels (helps your overall sense of well-being). On top of these helpful little endorphins, exercising energizes you. It releases adrenaline into your system, which is why no matter how tired you go in, you always leave feeling a lot better. 

Helpful tip: start off your day with a quick workout. Most of the people in my life look at me like I'm crazy whenever I mention the time I wake up to head to the gym, but think about it. You're killing two birds with one stone! Let's say you wake up at six or seven in the morning. You now have the energy to continue on with your day and don't have to dread going to the gym later.  

Another huge benefit is how it helps fight insomnia and helps reduce stress. After writing a semester-long search paper on academic stress and anxiety, I learned one major thing about FIU students: we are stressed. According to the survey that was conducted, nine out of ten students experienced academic anxiety and stress throughout the semester, but only six out of ten students used exercise as a way of release. Fitting in a simple ten-minute workout does make a difference to your body over time. 

 

​If the budget is tight, turn to our campus! ​

                                                                                                                                                                Image by News FIU

 

 

FIU has been my lifesaver for semesters now. For those that aren't aware, FIU offers a free gym membership to all of their enrolled students, free fitness classes, and even a free dietician. The university goes above and beyond to make sure its students have almost everything available to them.  The newly remodeled gym has been designed to have everything, including bigger free weight areas, an indoor track, spacious basketball fields (inside and out), a racquetball court, and even a matted room. If you're just starting out and are completely lost (because we've all been there), take a second to sign up for a fitness class. The wellness center offers a wide variety of daily fitness classes that any student can sign up for the day before. No catch, no commitment, it's completely free! 

As a firm believer in all things body positive: we need to change the stigma around exercising. We are not exercising to "lose the weight", or fit into society's perception of beauty. Our mental health is more important than that. The hardest part is getting there, not the workout itself, and every little step you take to bettering yourself mentally is more than enough.