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How Workouts can Ease Student Depression

Fitness, Happiness, Stress

How Workouts can Ease Student Depression


Various studies show that exercise is a behavioural intervention that shows great promise in alleviating the symptoms of depression. It is effective at reducing fatigue, improving concentration, and enhancing cognitive function.

Depression in college students is one of the main reasons they seek counseling and research shows that nearly one in five students are affected with anxiety or depression.

Exercising can be especially helpful when stress has depleted energy or the ability to concentrate. Only five minutes of aerobic exercise is enough to begin stimulating anti-anxiety effects.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Why are college students vulnerable to depression?

Many of us think of college as a wonderful time for new experiences and self-exploration. However, in college, depression can hit for many reasons.

Students are often living on their own for the first time and choosing what to eat, when they turn in at night and how much time they spend on social media and gaming gets confusing for them. They may also be adjusting to sharing with roommates and figuring out how to budget.

Becoming accustomed to new workloads and schedules is one of the major reasons for depression. Essay writing is one of the causes and students can pay for college papers to take some of the pressure off them. It’s same with other writing work that includes thesis, dissertation or term papers.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and emptiness are common. Those who are depressed often feel tired and lacking in energy so that even small tasks seem to be too demanding. They often lose interest in activities such as hobbies or sports. Other symptoms are:

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness and self-blame for past failures.
  • Frustration, irritability, and angry outbursts.
  • Sleep disturbances – either sleeping too much or not sleeping.
  • Changes in appetite – either increased cravings and weight gain or reduced appetite and weight loss.
  • Drop in academic performance.
  • Unexplained physical problems, like headaches and backache.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things and making decisions.
  • Anxiety, restlessness and agitation.
  • Recurrent thoughts about suicide or death.

Why do workouts help?

There could be multiple factors at play in why exercise helps to alleviate depression. One theory is that a rise in core body temperature following exercise can lead to an overall feeling of relaxation and reduce muscular tension.

Stress relieving exercise thus helps to alleviate tension and increase mental energy. For students who are stressing, exercises are therefore a great help.

Another theory is that exercise releases endorphins – powerful chemicals that create a sense of well-being. Endorphins also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn has many health benefits.

Exercise can also make brain neurotransmitters, like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine more available. These neurotransmitters are diminished with depression.

Several psychological mechanisms have also been proposed for why exercise can help with depression. Depressed people often feel they are unable to bring about positive outcomes in their lives and don’t feel they can complete tasks and achieve desirable outcomes. Exercise may provide a means to enhance their self-image, providing a sense of accomplishment they need.

There are studies that show that exercise works quickly to elevate depressed mood. The effects may be temporary, but a brisk walk or another simple activity can offer several hours of relief.

Some studies show that regular exercise works as well as medication for some people with anxiety and depression. A regular workout schedule can significantly alleviate symptoms over time.

Women working out together

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Workout tips

  • Walk, bike, jog, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
  • Rather walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to do a fitness marathon over the weekend.
  • Distract yourself with an iPod.
  • Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s easier to stick to an exercise routine when you have to stay committed.

Other ways to cope with depression

Eating well, getting enough sleep and spending time in nature can help students to stay healthy in mind and body.

Using alcohol and drugs as ways to cope can contribute to the development of depression as well as using stimulants to stay awake to study.

Taking dietary supplements for brain activity in addition to doing stress-relieving exercise may help. For example, taking Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit inflammation and inhibits the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Finding new ways to manage studies can also help, such as breaking larger tasks up into smaller ones and not trying to do too many things at once.

Seeking out student support groups can make a difference as well as spending time with supportive friends. College clubs and activities can be a good place to make friends and try new things.


In college, depression and anxiety are common for many different reasons, including homesickness and new schedules and study demands. Workouts could, therefore, be one of the keys for college students who face many challenges, pressures and anxieties. They need to use all available support and take every measure they can to prevent or treat depression.

Students who exercise are likely to cope better than those who don’t. If they are stressing, exercises can release their tension, make them feel calmer and help to prevent them from feeling completely overwhelmed.

 Author Bio:

Jeremy Reynolds is an academic writer and editor working for various online writing agencies and coaching students on becoming better writers, authors and bloggers. His tips and advice have helped many students improve their grades and take up writing profession. In his free time, he reads spirituality books, plays piano and he’s a regular at the local fitness center. He can be contacted on Twitter.

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