Grab your sneakers: exercise decreases stress

Calm your brain for finals week


Submitted photo

Rick Mangold, IVCC psychology professor and running club advisor, finishes his 50th state race in Alaska. Mangold uses running as a form of stress relief in his daily routine. IVCC students interested in the running club are encouraged to contact Mangold to join.

Jessica Bursztynsky, IV Leader Associate Editor

Stress, anxiety and depression have a stronghold on college students, yet a large amount of those suffering could find relief by lacing up those sneakers and going on a run.

Only 14 percent of people use exercise to cope with stress, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). A large part of this is due to the abundance of prescription drugs on the market, aimed at treating anxiety and depression.

“It would be tough to get people to turn in their prescriptions for running shoes, but an early study showed that regular exercise produced more of a therapeutic response than Zoloft, a very popular anti-depressant,” says Rick Mangold, IVCC psychology professor and running club advisor.

The United States has a $148 billion mental health bill, according to the ADAA. If people with mild to moderate mental illnesses decided to choose cost-effective forms of exercise, such as running outside, then there would be a substantial decrease in the prescription drug market.

Running, cardio classes or just heading to the gym also encourage positive lifestyle choices that are known to benefit those with mental illnesses. Physical activity tends to be social, whether it be joining a Facebook group, finding an exercise partner or just acknowledging people at the gym.

Gyms also tend to play loud, upbeat music to motivate its patrons. The happy music is an immediate relief to the brain – instantly boosting one’s mood and lightening the environment. There’s also the benefit of getting new workout attire and feeling healthy and strong after a workout.

For those starting out, Mangold suggests aiming for six weeks of exercise, to see if it helps decrease stress. “Start slowly, be consistent and do it with other people that will motivate you,” adds Mangold. “If you plan your ‘new you’ carefully, you can avoid some of the pitfalls and roadblocks that people run into.”

Whether you’re looking for a way to decrease stress in everyday life or manage anxiety or depression without medication, the benefits from exercise certainly prove it to be a viable treatment.

IVCC offers several fitness classes during the school year, including yoga, tai chi and general wellness. Contact your counselor to go over these options for your fall semester schedule. Students interested in the running program at IVCC are encouraged to contact Mangold in order to get started.