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Benefits of Physical Activity: A Student Perspective

Person standing in running shoes

This piece was written by Carlos Enrique Moreno Yanes. Carlos is a student here on campus working towards a Computer Science Associate in Science for Transfer degree. His goal is to become a software developer and work for a big tech company. In his free time, he loves to run, play tennis, and play video games.

Five miles.

I looked at my watch to see that I completed five miles in about 50 minutes. It’s only about six months since I started exercising regularly. By regularly, I mean that I exercise at least four times a week for an hour. I have always known that regular physical activity was beneficial for my overall health–but I did not know that I would also begin to feel better mentally and emotionally.

Two years ago I left nursing school and my mental health and self-esteem were at an all time low.  I was halfway through nursing school when I asked myself Is this really what I want to do? The tests were becoming more difficult and the stress of nursing school was exacerbated by the pandemic. Having to isolate myself from family and my closest support system to avoid the spread of the virus made me question: Where am I going next?

After I left nursing school, I realized that my heart had never been into it in the first place and I was left with a fearful realization that I did not know what to do next. So for nearly a year and a half, my health deteriorated right before me and I did not realize it. Or perhaps I did, but I refused to do anything. It was difficult trying to find my next step, my purpose, so I stopped. I just stopped altogether.

Thankfully, I had a patient partner by my side. She always encouraged me to go out on walks with her, or do some form of physical activity with her since she saw that I was letting myself go. She saw the sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet; and she wanted to help. But she taught me one very important thing: there is only so much she and others can do for me, and the rest I had to do on my own.

It was not overnight.

Everyone may think so. But it was the beginning of 2022, driving back from San Francisco when I decided to sign up to a gym. Since then, I have regularly participated in physical activity, and since then my mental and emotional health have taken a turn for the better. My sleep quality, mood, diet, and overall well-being is better.

In fact, regular physical exercise is linked to improved sleep quality, lower risks for depression and anxiety, and has an overall positive impact on one’s general wellbeing. Unfortunately, young adults, like myself,  are at a higher-risk for mental health disorders–and yet regular physical activity among young adults remains low. Regular physical activity, like simply 30 walking minutes a day, can greatly improve the physical health of a person, as well as their mental health. There is a lot of evidence that supports this idea, however, not everyone participates in regular physical activity. The first step is always the hardest, but it only takes one step. One foot after the other, and soon anyone can reap the benefits of physical activity.

Reference

Wickham, S. R., Amarasekara, N. A., Bartonicek, A., & Conner, T. S. (2020). The big three health behaviors and mental health and well-being among young adults: A cross-sectional investigation of sleep, exercise, and diet. Frontiers in Psychology.

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