Friday, November 16, 2012

Stress and Exercise

As the Fall Quarter comes to a close, we are not only planning for the holidays, but also preparing for those dreadful finals. Regardless if you are the type to get ahead in your classes or the procrastinating type that waits until the last second, stress is inevitable. It can result from school, work, personal problems, or a combination of everything. While stress is a normal and natural part of life, too much can have a negative impact on our body (WebMD, 2012). While exercise has plenty of physical benefits, there are many mental health benefits (Coburn & Malek, 2012).

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) states that participation in any physical activity provides significant psychological benefits. Decreased anxiety and depression, as well as decreased stress all can result from exercise, as well as improved cognition; all of which are beneficial for the student population heading into finals (Coburn & Malek, 2012)

Studies have shown that these positive effects have been observed through aerobic exercise but that low-intensity and higher volume resistance training provides similar benefits. Rhythmic exercise such as running or cycling at a steady pace or even dancing to music promotes mental relaxation (Harvard, 2011). These effects can be attributed to biological processes. For example, our serotonin and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters involved in mood) levels tend to decrease during depression but are elevated back during exercise (Coburn & Malek, 2012). 

As we stress out, there are many symptoms that arise including cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms (WebMD, 2012). Cognitive symptoms include memory difficulty, as well as constant worrying. Emotional symptoms include depression and changes in mood. Physical symptoms are characterized by increased heart rate and sometimes colds, while behavioral symptoms can be observed through diet changes, isolation, and sleep disruption. 

As a student, we are most interested with the positive benefits exercise has on cognition (memory, thinking, planning, concentration). Those who are physically active function at a higher cognitive level than those who are not (Coburn & Malek, 2012). This should encourage the college student demographic to make time for exercise. 

Thus, as finals approach us, it is important to not bombard ourselves with continuous studying. We will become overwhelmed and will have a difficult time remembering everything. Take a break and relax by committing 30-60 minutes of exercise. The studies don't lie!

Ryan Benito


Coburn, J., & Malek, M. H. (2012). Nsca's essentials of personal training. (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

WebMD. (2012). Stress management health center . Retrieved from 

Harvard. (2011, Feb). Exercising to relax . Retrieved from

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