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Fighting Stress and Anxiety Through Exercise

by Rosaria Lo Presti

The effects of stress and anxiety can cause drastic weight change in a student’s first year of college.

While stress and anxiety may cause unhealthy eating habits, excessive drinking anddrug intake, it can be avoided through relaxing forms of exercise.

After a series of studies, several health research agencies, including Harvard University, have concluded that exercise is one of the most efficient ways to reduce stress and anxiety and prevent weight changes.

Recent studiesin a nutrition journal have shown that one in four college students gain an average of 10 pounds within their first semester. Students facing stress tend to overeat, sleep lessand have decreased concentration while also losing weight, skipping meals and creating unhealthy diets.

This causes students to feel drained thus resulting in poor academic performance.

The Student Recreation Center is open to all students and faculty throughout the semester with their Montclair State ID card. Photo courtesy of montclair.edu

Montclair State University sophomore business major Tyler Ruffino noticed his increase in weight after the first 11 weeks of his freshman year. Ruffino recalled that he gained nine pounds.

“I was stress eating because I was struggling in math,” Ruffino said. “I didn’t want to keep gaining more weight, especially since the holidays were coming up, so I started walking on the treadmills on campus whenever I had a break in between classes.”

Ruffino lost a healthy 12 pounds months later through exercise and watching his diet. He also took an extra step to start spending more time on campus to get his assignments done so that he could relax once he got home from his commute.

Dr. Jessica Hessler is a counselor at Montclair State and a group member of Let’s Talk, a campus association formed for students who deal with anxiety and stress. She believes that exercise helps students maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Exercise is associated with a reduction in stress and acts as a bit of a distracter,” Hessler said. “Allowing chemicals into our bodies that help us regulate stress over time.”

Hessler sees a variety of different stress-related anxiety in students who commute and live on campus.

She explained that students typically need 10 hours of sleep daily. Students should regulate their sleep, even if that causes them to take a break from working on an assignment. They should also avoid activities that could be physically and mentally harmful.

“Besides from exercise, it is important to find the most healthy and uplifting activity [that] a person with stress can partake in,” Hessler said.

Sports, such as swimming, are found to be one of the most stress-reducing activities since it regulates breathing and works on every muscle in the body, including the brain. While swimming is already regarded as a healthy activity, recent studies, like the one conducted by The Independent, have uncovered the positive psychological impact that swimming has on the mind.

Junior political science major Adam Adrignolo loves to swim as a way to clear his head and destress.
Photo courtesy of Adam Adrignolo

As you swim, chemicals are produced in the brain that actas natural painkillers, known as endorphins, and reduces stress.

“For me, swimming relieves stress more efficiently than even running,” said junior political science major Adam Adrignolo. “After a busy day, swimming relaxes my mind and makes me feel refreshed and confident afterward.”

While there are multiple activities that help people cope and reduce stress, swimming is one of the most stress-relieving activities.

Yoga is another stress-reducing activity that many find relaxing. Yoga is found to lower heart rates and blood pressure as well as enhance moods.

Senior psychology major Michaela Powell takes free yoga classes to destress from classes. Photo courtesy of Michaela Powell

Senior psychology major Michaela Powell takes free yoga classes at the Student Recreation Center whenever she needs a mental break from classes.

“It definitely helps me relax, especially during meditation, because it helps me feel levelheaded and grounded,” Powell said. “After the day is over, I feel like I can complete school work more efficiently after completing a session of yoga.”

Collegehas become much more stressful than ever before. Everywhere, students are facing similar symptoms and diet change as a result of stress. While many ignore the side effects of stress and anxiety, it is avoidable through exercise and maintaining a healthy diet.

“I totally recommend doing yoga for students that are overwhelmed or stressed out with school work,” Powell said.

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