Mental Health Awareness Week: Why exercise can help your mental health

This is a photo of a gym
Going to the gym can help students with stress. Photo: Holly Hunt

As a university student, stress is often a constant companion. From academic pressures to deadlines, it is easy for students to feel overwhelmed.

However, there is a simple yet powerful tool that can help alleviate stress and boost mental wellbeing: the gym.

When you engage in physical activity, your body releases endorphins. These chemicals act as natural painkillers and mood elevators which can reduce stress and promote relaxation.

For university students facing the pressures of exams and assignments, regular gym sessions can offer a much-needed break.

Daisy, a university student, says: “I go to the gym whenever I can because I like to have an hour a day where I don’t have to think about work or revision or anything like that.

“I equally enjoy being active and feeling like I’m looking after my body and my mental health. I find that when I go to the gym, especially in the morning, I feel more awake and then I can be more productive.”

The benefits of exercise extend beyond the physical aspects. It can also have a positive impact on mental health, including reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Which is why the gym is not just a place to work out – it is also a social hub where students can connect with others and exercise together.

For university students who feel overwhelmed, the social aspect of the gym can provide a much-need support group.

Aimee, a regular gym-goer and university student, says: “When I go to the gym with friends, it is a good way to keep me motivated and also gives me a chance to socialise outside of my course.

“On days when I don’t really want to go, I know I can go with my friends and have a slower session where we mostly chat but it still gets me out of the house.”

She adds: “When I do it on my own, it’s a good head-clearing exercise where I can focus on my body and not on everything else that is going on.

“I can see it visibly enhancing my mental health because I like feeling strong and healthy. I recommend going to the gym to any student who feels stressed or overwhelmed because it is a nice break.”

This is a picture treadmills
Going to the gym can act as a nice break for busy students. Photo: Holly Hunt

By making time for regular gym sessions, students can take time out of their studies to relax and refresh.

Whether it is a quick workout before a study session or a midday exercise break to recharge the brain, the cognitive benefits of exercise are second to none.

If you aren’t a fan of walking into the gym and trying to figure out how to use all the machines, maybe try a fitness class.

Most gyms include fitness classes for those who prefer guided or group workouts, and they are also free with your main gym subscription.

It is a good way to ease into your fitness journey, and it also allows you to plan your studies around the classes you book so you know that you will have a guaranteed break every day.

Even if you are not a fan of the gym, try out a fitness class and see if guided workouts are more to your taste.

As a student, prioritising your mental health is the most important thing to focus on. By incorporating regular gym breaks into your daily routine, you will be prioritising your mental health and feel more prepared to write those essays!