Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? One of the best ways to improve mental health is to walk away — literally. Exercising isn’t a cure all for mental wellness, but studies have shown that it can help.
Just 30 minutes of exercise can reduce anxiety and increase energy compared to 30 minutes of resting, according to research in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal. A study conducted by UNLV also concluded that college students who don’t exercise regularly are over three times more likely to report any level of depression and two times more likely to report moderate to severe depression.
Sharon Jalene, associate dean in the UNLV School of Integrated Health Sciences, emphasizes that our bodies are designed to move, and the benefits go far beyond the heart and muscles.
“When we increase our body's circulation to our heart and lungs, our brain will also benefit from additional circulation,” explains Jalene. “It just makes more sense that if you provide a more hospitable environment for your neurons and your brain that you might have a better outcome.”
Some ways to increase daily movement are through aerobics, like walking, running, or cycling, and resistance training, like weight lifting or bodyweight movements. Simple lifestyle movement can count as exercise too. Think of things like gardening, parking further away, or playing with your dog— all are great options. Getting your steps in and an increased heart rate is key.
UNLV Resources to Promote Movement
Here’s the burning question: What’s the best type of movement? Scrolling through your social media feed can feel overwhelming when trying to figure out what's best for you. One week people claim weight lifting is ideal, the next week it's walking, and after that it’s pilates.
The answer is simple: It’s whatever you enjoy the most. Forcing yourself to do an exercise you don’t like won’t provide a viable outlet for prolonged wellness. Instead, find something you enjoy, and stick with it.
UNLV offers a variety of resources to learn more about staying active and finding ways to improve mental health.
You @ UNLV is a wellness app that provides tips and tools for both physical and mental health. All students, staff, and faculty are welcome to use the resources provided.
Girl Gains is a registered student organization (RSO) that promotes female weightlifting and a judgment-free community. Not into weight lifting but still want to get involved? They also put on a variety of wellness events, such as group hikes, and arrange to attend workout classes together at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.
“Exercising gives me the opportunity to step away from my work and come back to it with a clearer, more focused, and overall more positive mindset,” Sarah John, a psychology major. She said she co-founded the UNLV Girl Gains Chapter because exercise is her favorite form of mindfulness and she wanted to share the outlet with others.
Fitness4Finals is a program presented by Jalene and UNLV’s kinesiology and nutrition department. It’s geared around wellness tips for midterm and finals weeks, but these resources are just as helpful year-round for exercise, meditation, and nutrition guidance.
Find more resources on the UNLV Wellness page.