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Spring Into Shape: Sweating it off better than packing on calories

Need to clear your head? I know I do.

Your idea of tackling your worries may be polishing off a Hungry Howie’s pizza and a six-pack of beer.

But stress relief doesn’t have to translate to consumption. To push aside your stress, you just need determination and persistence to work out.

I think it’s important to note that high-intensity exercise is not necessary; performing even just 10-15 minutes of cardio per day is sufficient and more productive than sticking around to finish that “Lost” marathon (you’ve seen this episode anyway).

We all know that exercise has physical benefits, but the mental advantages it conquers are just as noteworthy. Here’s a platter of reasons why your mental health is celebrating your heart’s pumping.

1. It releases stress-free hormones

Although stress and anxiety are not exclusive to college students, it often feels as if we experience them at the highest magnitude.

Maybe it’s well past the early hours of Wednesday morning when you’re still writing your paper due for your 8 a.m. class. Maybe your roommate is driving you up a wall because her boyfriend has slept over every night this week.

Or maybe your ex decides to randomly come back into your life, because what better timing then the days before an exam, right?

Chronic stress, whether it’s mental or physical, is an ongoing problem, but it can be defeated. Exercise releases positive hormones like endorphins and serotonin, which can improve your happiness and wash away your feelings of worry. You can literally feel the stress being lifted off your tense shoulders.

2. It lightens your mood

Those same chemicals that are released from your brain after exercising positively impact your mood as well, leaving you calm and blissful. You’ll gain a sense of accomplishment after battling that last treacherous hill or pushing yourself to finish that last set of reps.

The key to fitness should be to unwind, not to look better. Find the type of exercise that is right for you — one that you enjoy doing. Exercise doesn’t mean going to go pump iron or running around a track. You can go for a hike or go take a dip at the pool. This is how you truly abandon your worries and heighten your mood when exercising.

The effect of endorphins and serotonin may also tie into how you feel about your appearance and about yourself — after working out, you’ll gain a confidence boost from feeling and looking this happy.

3. You’ll sleep better

Studies have shown that if you exercise in the morning or even during the afternoon, you will sleep better at night. Working out too close to bedtime can make you too restless.

I try to work out before my morning classes, because it almost jump-starts my day. It’s also important to note that working out early in the day leaves your body burning those calories throughout the long afternoon. And that’s a good feeling.

4. It increases your energy and efficiency

Cardio boosts physical endurance, but it can cause you to have more energy and better mental drives. You’re almost on a high from feeling so energized — like you’ve just experienced an adrenaline rush from doing something spontaneous.

This feeling may not happen the first time you exercise in a while, but give it a week or two and you’ll feel more alert and productive.

If you exercise more, you’ll get more sleep. If you get more sleep, you’ll have higher levels of energy and efficiency.

Thus, you won’t have to order that grande white chocolate mocha from Front Room the next morning, which is loaded with calories that you’ll be burning instead of consuming. You will look and feel good.

Win-win.

Kaitlyn Richert is a sophomore studying magazine journalism and informational graphics and is a columnist for The Post. Need a workout buddy? Email her at kr257109@ohiou.edu.

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