STAFF OPINION: Working out benefits both mind and body

By Gavin Britton | April 24, 2023 12:00pm

Photo courtesy of Gavin Britton.

As finals approach for students at the University of Portland, stress levels are on the rise. With looming deadlines and a seemingly never-ending list of assignments, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and trapped in a cycle of anxiety. However, one of the best ways to combat this stress is to stay active. 

Regular physical activity has been proven time and time again to be one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and improve overall mental health. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, chemicals that make you feel good and reduce feelings of pain and stress. In addition, physical activity has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body which can help to reduce anxiety. 

But beyond just the chemical benefits, there are a number of reasons why being active is such an effective way to destress. Physical activity allows you to disconnect from the world and focus solely on your body and the present moment. This can help to clear your mind and give you a sense of peace and relaxation that can be hard to find in the midst of a busy semester. 

Another benefit of being active is that it can help you build resilience and mental toughness. When you push yourself physically, you learn to tolerate discomfort and overcome challenges. This can translate to other areas of your life, including academic work. 

By developing a sense of mental fortitude through physical activity, you may find that you are better able to handle the stress and pressure of midterms and other challenges that come your way. 

So, what are some ways that you can stay active during finals season? Here are a few suggestions:

Take a walk. Walking is a simple but effective way to get moving and clear your head. Take a stroll around campus, or venture off into a nearby park or nature reserve. Try to focus on your surroundings and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.

Try a new activity. Mixing up your exercise routine can help keep things interesting and challenging. Consider trying a new sport or fitness class that you've never done before. You might find that you enjoy it more than you thought and you'll also be pushing yourself to learn new skills and meet new people.

Join a group. Exercising with others can be a great way to stay motivated and build a sense of community. Consider joining a fitness group or club on campus or simply gather some friends and organize your own workouts.

Make it a habit. The most effective way to get the stress-reducing benefits of physical activity is to make it a regular part of your routine. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Personally, I try to get to the gym six times a week for an hour or more. Going to the gym helps me lower stress and when I am done with my lift, I have a sense of accomplishment.   

Taking time to focus on your body is really beneficial for your mental health. By making it a priority to stay active and take care of your mind and body, you will be better equipped to handle the challenges and pressures of academic work.

Gavin Britton is a photographer for The Beacon. He can be reached at

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