The importance of exercise for mental health/opportunities for exercise at COCC
Miina McCown/The Broadside
With classes starting again for many and with the worldwide pandemic continuing, it can be easy to lose oneself amidst feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. A healthy way to cope with these feelings while improving physical and mental health or even spending time and strengthening relationships with others is through exercise.
It may or may not be a well-known fact that physical activity is beneficial for reducing your stress and mental health in general. Not only does exercise prevent obesity, cardiovascular disease and other high-risk chronic illnesses, but it can also play a large part in improving the mental health and overall mood of an individual by reducing negative feelings and increasing self-esteem.
An article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information discusses how aerobic activity such as running, biking, and dancing have been proven in numerous studies to reduce depression and anxiety by increasing blood circulation to the brain, having an effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, causing the physiologic reactivity to stress.
Matthew Novak, the Assistant Professor of Psychology at Central Oregon Community College explained, “Endorphins, the body’s natural pain management system, are released when you exercise. Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood. So if the isolation of the pandemic or the diminished routines are getting you down, exercise will challenge the “rut” that your brain functioning gets into and encourage those brain systems to act differently and be more flexible.”
Other health benefits in addition to stress reduction and mood improvement that are caused by physical activity include improved sleep, increased energy, weight reduction and reduced cholesterol.
While getting proper physical activity can be done alone by following one of Chloe Ting’s videos on YouTube, getting physical activity outside or with others can indeed help to further reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Regular physical activity with others, in-person or remotely alike diminishes social withdrawal, as discussed in an article by Health Direct. It is also recommended that the average adult gets at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity most days of the week.
COCC offers many free opportunities for exercise where students can engage in aerobic activity along with others in a COVID friendly setting, which can be viewed here.
COCC is currently ranked 3rd in the nation in the National Recreation Movement, competing with 100 other colleges to track how active students are during the pandemic. Students can log their workouts online each day, any aerobic activity or exercise in a class or alone included. It is encouraged that everyone logs their workout time, which can be done by visiting this page to sign up.
Joshua Motenko, the Assistant Director of Club and Intramural Sports, said “The COCC Sports and Recreation department is still creating opportunities for students to interact and stay fit. Our ‘Sports During COVID’ website has information and ways for students to register for events we are holding, many of which are on hold as we wait for COVID case numbers to go down in our county. The first events back will be the outdoor ones like golf tournaments and the running club. Despite that we are working on getting free passes for students to go skiing and use facilities like the Madras Aquatic Center,”
Motenko added,“Last term we launched COCC’s first E-Sports Club, for students who are into gaming or competitive video games and this term we are hoping to create a Super Smash Bros team to compete against other schools. We have some students who are ranked in the state of Oregon and we’re currently rounding up the troops to get a date on the calendar. This is a great way for students to engage with each other in leisure activities when they can’t be physically together.”
Another article from The Broadside by Kate Couch goes further in-depth on E-sports and their recent boom as well as more opportunities within Bend for E-sports.