February 01, 2022

The Surprising Link Between Physical Activity and Emotional Health in College Students

The college experience is a rite of passage. For many, college is the first time people move away from home, learn independence, and discover their sense of self.

While these life lessons might seem fun on the surface, they can, unfortunately, become very stressful- especially when you throw a bunch of exams and homework on top of it. The stress is compounded because many young adults do not have the necessary experience or skills to process large amounts of stress.

Studies show that there is a direct link between our physical and emotional health. Campus recreation departments strive to help students maintain good emotional health by providing exercise opportunities. Read on and learn how physical activity on your campus can support the mental health of college students. 

College Campuses Are a Great Place to…Sit?

Most college students tend to associate college with sedentary behavior, such as

  • Pulling an all-nighter at the library to study for a final
  • Sitting in the cafeteria while completing an assignment
  • Taking notes in a lecture while buzzed on espresso shots

College seems to revolve around one main activity - sitting!

A lack of physical exercise worsens preexisting mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. 

Some days in college will be more stressful than others, and if students don’t have the foundation provided through exercise to process it, the stress will pile up. What were small amounts of stressful stimuli is now a tremendous emotional strain. This emotional strain can cause students to experience a sense of burnout. 

In extreme cases, it can force students to take a leave of absence, putting their college career on hold and further contributing to their overall stress. 

Campus Recreation Can Help With Physical and Emotional Health

This toxic cycle of stress is not inevitable. According to the Anxiety and Depressive Society of America, physical activity can help students reduce the amount of stress they face daily.

There are many ways to incorporate physical exercise into the college lifestyle. Campus recreation departments often provide group fitness opportunities such as yoga or cycling. These activities not only get everybody moving but also create a great social outlet for attendees. 

Investing in outdoor workout spaces also helps improve student mental health. Virginia Tech added GameTime’s THRIVE outdoor fitness equipment and saw its community strengthened through exercise and recreation.

According to the CDC, students should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise and participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. If you commonly hear college students say they don’t have enough time for this kind of workout regimen – don’t worry. Here are some ways your campus can help incorporate more physical activity into an established daily routine:

  • Designate walking and biking paths throughout the campus to encourage more activity. Some colleges post signs with the distance between points or the number of steps between locations. 
  • Set up an early-riser walk or run group. Students who have early classes may be willing to get an earlier start to socialize with friends before their day gets started. Early morning exercises cause a release of endorphins which contributes to improved mood throughout the day.
  • Host a workshop or class on how to use study breaks as an exercise break. Evidence suggests some students have higher brain function when their body is in motion.

College is Where People Learn Healthy Habits

Physical activity is linked to emotional wellness. Without a physical outlet, college students are more likely to struggle with their mental health. There are many ways to combat this issue and get college students more active. 

Campus recreation departments can schedule group fitness classes or invest outdoor fitness equipment to create a fun, social environment while students get their exercise. If the student has a tight schedule, creating a space where they can go during a study break to workout is ideal for incorporating physical activity.

To learn how to focus on physical activity on your college campus, contact a GameTime representative today.