In the current sociopolitical climate, rates of mental illness are incredibly high and continue to climb every day.
The percentages of college-age young adults who suffer from anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness are at the highest recorded levels in history. For some, medication is necessary to treat their symptoms. However, many people use exercise as an aid in coping with the stress of everyday life.
“Exercise is so important to me because it is my main way to reduce stress,” said Grace Kaplicky, kinesiology major. “Although I have always loved being active, I never realized how vital it was for me to have time to move around every day, until the COVID-19 lockdown made it such a challenge to get exercise with all of the gym closures.
“Especially because I have ADHD, I really struggled with not having somewhere to relieve my stress by exercising. Since I grew up playing sports, I always had specific times to practice, so when I got to college, I tried to embed PE classes into my schedule so I knew for sure I would have time in my day to incorporate movement, creating an outlet to combat anxiety.”
Many college students exercise in different ways as a means of coping with stress and anxiety, whether that is the result of mental illness or the academic and social stresses of college life.
“When I’m stressed and I go exercise, I am able to concentrate on working out, which helps distract me and helps release endorphins which really helps me de-stress,” said Mikayla Shickley, freshman psychology major. “When I run, I definitely feel calmer and more destressed compared to other exercises.”
Many people find there is an actual physical difference in their physiological response to stress and anxiety after they exercise, which can be helpful for individuals who struggle with coping with the symptoms of mental illness.
“While I think that there are certain forms of exercise that help reduce stress and anxiety more than others for me, I also know that everyone is different,” Kaplicky said.