by Chloe Pieper-Pumping iron might not only build your muscles but also your mood.
Studies have shown that lifting weights can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Strength training reduces these symptoms by regulating blood flow and heart rate, speeding up your metabolism, clearing brain fog, and boosting your mood.
Drew Binning, a nursing student, said, “The gym helps me mentally because that is where I go when life does not feel so consistent. The gym is always there even when nothing else is. When I go there, I never leave in a bad mood.”
Lifting weights has been shown to have little cost with plenty of benefits. It takes a small amount of money to go to a gym compared to the cost of medication and psychotherapy.
Exercise is free from side effects compared to some medications that students and adults are prescribed. Physical activity of any type can have a potential mood boost that helps lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
It does not matter when you start going to the gym, but it does matter how consistent you are with it. Binning said, “I started going to the gym consistently when my girlfriend and I broke up over a year ago. I was in a very bad state of mind after that. My friends got me to go to the gym with them and now I go to the gym probably six times a week to keep my goal of consistency.”
VICE reported that strength training affects your brain by hormones. Hormones and hormone-like substances, the production of which is ramped up during exercise, have been shown to cross from the blood into the brain and triggering changes in its structure and function.
Some of these changes include the formation of new brain cells, stronger connections between those cells, and the creation of new blood vessels, which provide your brain with oxygen and essential nutrients.
Six months of resistance training has also been shown to increase the size of certain regions of the brain. This change in brain structure was tied to an improvement in mental function.
There are parallels between “mindfulness” and what happens when you’re lifting weights. Mindfulness involves paying more attention to the present moment, your own thoughts and feelings, and the sensations you’re experiencing. Mindfulness also teaches that thoughts and feelings are transient. They come and they go, but it’s up to you whether to act on them or not.
At Morningside, there are many areas for someone to workout at. There is at least one treadmill or workout area in all of the resident quarters. Morningside also has trails and tracks to run on.
The area that has the most workout equipment is the Hindman-Hobbs Center, also called the HPER, located next to the Olsen Student Center.
Wendy Wilde, the HPER coordinator, said, “We have plenty of sports practicing indoors while the weather is cold because COVID-19 postponed their playoff season to the spring. However, we have enough equipment to get a decent workout in during those times. We have an indoor track to go for a walk, along with other equipment to use. Students can go for a swim, lift weights, shoot hoops, play racquetball, or join intramurals.”
Strength training, or working out in general, is similar to education for your brain. It trains your mental toughness for when things seem impossible, your ability to focus on the task at hand instead of what is happening around you, and most importantly it trains you to believe that you are capable of reaching new levels of mental and physical strength.
Sophomore Jennie Riedemann said, “I go to the gym as much as I can go during the week. I feel peace when I go because I feel like I accomplished at least one thing that day. Being an athlete and full-time undergraduate student is very demanding. I feel like my life is chaotic and I forget my days sometimes. When I work out, I have control over a situation. I feel like my head is clearer and I could get my assignments done afterward.”
Even if you’re currently not depressed or anxious, and would like to stay that way, lifting weights regularly can help change the structure and function of your brain, as well as trigger the release of chemicals that make you feel better.
A specific chemical from your brain that is released is dopamine and serotonin. This is the “happy” chemical that is released when you exercise. Not only is your brain dumping out feel-good chemicals, but exercise also helps your brain get rid of chemicals that make you feel stressed and anxious.
People who exercise tend to be happier and less stressed than those who don’t exercise. Regular exercise can also help you control your emotions when you do feel angry or upset. These negative emotions can be your motivation to go workout.
Junior Alyx Curran Lewis said, “It gives me a boost of serotonin and some days lifting weights is the one thing I look forward to for the day. It helps me stay in shape and make mind and body connections. It reminds me how strong I can be and the amazing things my body can do.”
As students, we are constantly doing assignments or studying for exams. Physical activity can improve your long-term and short-term memory. Young adults who were asked to exercise just a few times a week showed big improvements in their ability to remember what they read. This fact can come in handy since we are here to learn and grow as individuals.
When you feel like you are unable to focus, life is overwhelming, or you cannot seem to catch a break, working out for at least ten minutes of your day might help. It might feel like a small amount of time, but it can make a big difference.