How can exercise improve your mental health during this pandemic?
By: Claudia Buonsante
For many of us, 2020 has been quite unusual with dull days that bleed into each other. With no clear end in sight, quarantine can feel overwhelming while also being painfully understimulating. Though I don’t have all the answers, I do have an ancient remedy that humans have relied on for thousands of years: exercise.
Research shows that exercise improves mood and alleviates anxiety. We all know that 2020 has been a particularly stressful year. During these challenging times, we could all use a little exercise. Because many of us have fallen out of our routines that involve walking across campus and running to catch buses, it is so important that we deliberately incorporate exercise into our quarantine routines.
These past few months, I have filled my days with biking, walking, and running. These activities brighten my day and ease my mind. I hope you can find similar happiness. Exercise has helped me so much during this tough time. I cannot understate the importance of exercise in regards to mental health.
Research has shown that exercise stimulates the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters in the human brain. Firstly, exercise can cause an increased release of serotonin- a well-known neurotransmitter that contributes to happiness and wellbeing. Exercise also causes the release of dopamine and norepinephrine which causes increased focus. This can be particularly helpful for college students who are cramming for final exams!
Moreover, in 2016, a study done by the University of California Davis Health System
found that exercise leads to an increase in the release of glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, which are often depleted during a depressive episode. I know many of us are feeling down right now because of the chaotic state of the world but one way to combat your depression is to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
There may be some added challenges in doing this because many gyms are closed- but don’t let that stop you. Staten Island has so much to offer in terms of open, natural space. I have enjoyed jogging in the Greenbelt Nature Center and LaTourette Park. Both have winding paths that you can use to walk or jog. Moreover, I have enjoyed Staten Island’s coastline and spent much time doing cardio along the various boardwalks of our borough. Personally, my favorite spot is the South Beach boardwalk.
If you’d rather workout at home, you can follow Youtubers who post free online workout videos. My favorite fitness YouTubers are Pamela Reif and Chloe Ting- both post-at-home workout videos that are at the beginner’s level and involve no equipment. You can also use household items in lieu of weights. Personally, I have used textbooks and bags of flour. I have also used my bookshelves to rest my legs while I’m stretching. Just be creative and enjoy your space!
I can’t say it enough times- I strongly urge you to exercise during the pandemic. It can help you become a happier, healthier, and more focused person. Many of us have extra time on our hands because of quarantine, so try to take advantage of this time to enrich your mind, body, and soul.