There is no doubt that balancing school responsibilities, a social life, and work create an immense amount of stress in today’s college students. Stress has many negative effects on the body, so it is important to adopt coping strategies to minimize the stress we experience each day.
When we think about coping methods to deal with stress, exercise is frequently at the top of the list. With so little time and so much to do, many people feel as if they cannot take time out of their busy schedules to exercise. I am here to tell you that the benefits of even a short exercise, like 30 minutes of physical activity a few days a week, is well worth the time!
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has the ability to increase your overall health and sense of wellbeing while decreasing the stress you experience. The good news is that exercise can be physical activity that you enjoy, from a nature hike to a tennis match to lifting weights or even dancing. When you engage in physical activity, you release endorphins that increase the “feel good” signals in your brain. Exercise relieves stress and limits its effects on your body. Exercise also serves as a “timeout” or distraction from stress, and it leaves you feeling more calm, clear, and positive.
While making the decision to begin exercising is a great first step, committing to making the change is the hardest part! To begin, schedule exercise into your daily routine. It is okay to start with exercising a couple of days a week. Progress is progress! As exercising becomes more routine in your schedule and you begin experiencing its positive effects on your stress level, it will be easier to incorporate exercise into your week more frequently.
Another strategy to creating a new healthy habit is to find a friend. Accountability is a powerful thing, and knowing your friend is waiting for you to show up is a great incentive.
If you are new to the world of exercise and physical activity, it may be uncomfortable at first. It is okay to exercise in short bursts a couple of times a day to work yourself up to 30 or more minutes of exercise in one session. This method also works if you’re too busy for a full 30-minute exercise session but can squeeze in a few 10-minute separate sessions throughout the day.
The life of a college student is full of stressors, and while you cannot control the number of discussion board posts, exams, and papers you have in one week, you can control how you manage the stress associated with it. Start with a few short exercise sessions a week and work your way to more. Choose an exercise that you enjoy, and encourage a friend to join you in your new adventure towards a life with less stress. Check-in with yourself, reflect on your stress level before and after your workouts, and feel the positive impact that physical activity has on your mental health!
Below are a few simple workouts that can be performed outside, in your apartment, or in your dorm room. There are descriptions next to some of the movements in the workouts. YouTube has videos of these movements, as well.
Exercise Routine 1:
1 minute of each exercise, repeat 3 times (or you can repeat as many times as you’re comfortable with)
Jump squats or air squats.
High knees. Stand in place, alternating running in place, but bring knees forward and up as high as you can.
Wall or kneeling push-ups.
Bicycles. Lie on your back, come up to a crunch position, now alternate bringing your left knee and right elbow together, then your right knee and left elbow.
Exercise Routine 2:
You will need two canned goods to use as weights for this one!
Put 20 minutes on the clock and do as many rounds as possible.
20 bicep curls.
15 triceps extensions.
20 walking lunges.
15 leg lifts. Lie on your back, legs together straight up in the air. Lift your legs up to the ceiling as far as you can, then slowly lower your legs down until they are just a few inches off the floor. Pause, then repeat!
20 mountain climbers. Begin in a push-up position, extend your arms so your body is off the floor. Alternate pulling your knees to your chest like you’re climbing a mountain.
15 oblique twists. Sit at about a 45 degree angle with your knees bent. If you can, raise your feet off the floor a few inches. Hold a can and slowly twist from side to side with your torso. Each time you twist, tap the can to the floor beside you.
5 burpees (or up-downs). Start standing, squat, placing your hands on the ground, place your feet behind you and do a push up, bring your feet back to your hands, stand and jump. That’s one!
Exercise Routine 3:
Put 20 minutes on the clock. Every minute on the minute, do 5 body squats!
20 jumping jacks.
10 sit ups.
20 shoulder taps. Hold a push up position with your arms extended. Alternate tapping your right hand to your left shoulder and your left hand to your right shoulder.
10 calf raises.
20 flutter kicks. Lie on your back, bring your legs up off the floor a few inches. Alternate raising each leg a few extra inches like you are kicking to swim.
10 froggers. Begin in a push up position off the floor with your arms extended. Jump your feet towards your hands, then back to the starting position.
20 cross body punches.