Get Movin’

Prioritizing exercise key to mental health

Hannah Huddleston and Rosie Huddleston

Everyone has their own way of recharging. Many high school students occasionally experience a low sense of well-being, as feelings of anxiety regarding grades, homework, and social life can adversely affect their mental health. Exercising is a tool people can use to center themselves, for they are able to engage with something other than their worries and stresses. Prioritizing exercise is a key factor in strengthening mental health.

According to Mr. Smith, the head of the Prep boys’ soccer program and Life Fitness and Health and Wellness teacher, teenagers often feel they lack sufficient motivation and/or time to incorporate exercise into their busy schedules. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teenagers ages 13 to 17 partake in one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. The reality is that a little exercise each day leads to more energy and to clearer thinking and heightened performance.

Smith stated, “Think of exercise as a bank account; it is an investment that boosts returns. Whenever one of my soccer players is on injured reserve, it has a drastic impact on the psyche. They can get moody and depressed”. Furthermore, Smith does not believe in using exercise as a form of punishment. He would rather frame exercise as a reward.

For students who don’t play a sport, the challenge of staying active might seem overwhelming. The irony is that while such students might think they can use that “extra” time for their studies, they lose out on the benefits of feeling re-energized and promoting heart-healthy routines that lead to better academic outcomes.

Prep Spanish teacher, Señor Martin, is certified in yoga and sees exercise as a gift to oneself. He believes that yoga, or any form of exercise helps individuals to feel empowered and confident in themselves. Whether for physical and/or spiritual reasons, yoga is an accessible outlet for people seeking to decompress and feel rejuvenated. When it comes to giving high school students advice on general exercise, Martin is clear about the importance of reducing stress, noting, “Exercise releases endorphins, and this helps improve mood. The increased dopamine that is created counters mental disorders that impair a person’s ability to think, to rationalize, to sleep, and to have friendships”.

Getting started with an exercise routine might seem difficult. However, all it takes is beginning with something small. Offering some easy suggestions, Smith stated, “Movement breaks are essential. Walk your dog. Walk with a friend. Find short periods of time during the school day to move. Instead of taking the car, walk. Get those endorphins going!”