Women jogging, keeping up her physical fitness. Studies have been linked fitness to improved mental states, creating a better learning environment. (Lariat/ Austin Weatherman)
College, the years of late nights and the infamous Top Ramen diet. College students have a busy schedule between getting to class and working a job, there is just not a enough time in the day. As we venture further away from the days of recess in elementary to school, we exercise less voluntarily, resulting to the freshman 15. Not only does the lack of exercising affect our overall weight, but our mental health, leading to lower grades.
In 2004 and 2005, studies were conducted on elementary school children in the state of Massachusetts to see if there was any correlation between physical fitness and academic success. Out of 1,847 fourth through eighth graders, math scores went up 38 percent for every point scored on the physical fitness exam, according to the Institute for Community Health.
Some have questioned the concept of whether or not these studies have proven to be accurate. 11 of 14 studies on the subject have shown physical activity as a positive correlation with academic success, according to Kohl H.W. III, editor of the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.
“A single bout of moderate-intensity physical activity has been found to increase neural and behavioral concomitants associated with the allocation of attention to a specific cognitive task (Hillman et al., 2009; Pontifex et al., 2012),” said Kohl in an article.
Matt Held, a former Irvine Valley College student and associate at LA Fitness, can attest to Kohl’s statement. While Held attended IVC, he would work out in the evenings considering he school or work all afternoon.
“I usually do my homework after I work out. I feel calmer, more focused, and overall have more energy, so then it helps me through homework and studying,” said Held. “From what I know, when we work out, we release endorphins that help our brains work, we get better sleep, and are able to tune in better to what we are doing.”
Endorphins are hormones that are released in the brain to suppress pain but increase positive feelings. Releasing these hormones may be key to fighting depression considering 1 out of every 4 college students suffers a mental disorder, including depression, according to Michael Kerr, a column writer for Healthline.com.
Considering college is a time of exploration, friendships and happiness, where do students go wrong?
British economist George MacKerron suggests that our environment and actions affect our everyday happiness. In an experiment that MacKerron conducted with Susana Mourato in 2013, 50,000 volunteers reported their actions and overall state of mind whenever their phone paged them to do so. In conclusion to the study, the only time volunteers were happier when they were not working out was during sexual intercourse.
The happier mood produced by the endorphins we release during physical activity can help college students cope with their everyday stress. Working out does not only put us in a better mood, but creating more energy to expend on other tasks.
“Physical exercise stimulates the development of new mitochondria within your cells, meaning that your body will be able to produce more ATP over time. That gives you more energy to exert yourself physically, but it also means more energy for your brain, boosting your mental output,” said MacKerron in an article.
Leslie Woodson, a Saddleback College student, took afternoon classes last semester, allowing her to work out in the mornings. She worked out about every other day, but since the new semester has started, she has only gone about once a week.
“When I do go, I feel like I have a lot of energy but when I don’t, I feel really lazy,” said Woodson. “I used to be able to work out and do my homework in the mornings, but since my schedule has changed, it has been tough to get in the gym.”
Being healthy and fit is not just for jocks anymore. Working out increases the feel good hormones affecting our self-esteem as well as our academic success. The more able to overcome able to overcome the hardships of college through healthy outlets of stress, the easier the process becomes.