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Walla Walla, WA
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Exercise Can Save Lives:

November 10, 2022
Garret Christensen

But It's Not What You Think

By Garret Christensen

“The importance of exercise is not adequately understood or appreciated by patients and mental health professionals alike.” [1] 

Exercise has a huge impact on mental health for almost every individual. It boosts self-confidence and alleviates anxiety and depression. 

According to a study published in 2004, it is proven that exercise relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression across all ages and abilities. The activities shown to give the most relief were “rhythmic, aerobic exercises, using large muscle groups, of moderate and low intensity.” [2] 

For busy college students, one easy way to implement this into daily life is by walking briskly to class when possible and always taking the stairs. For those who have a little more time on their hands, try going for a jog, riding a bike, or taking a swim three times a week. Your mood and physical fitness will noticeably improve.  

Senior aviation technology major Joel Morin agreed: “You need to start slow, but I definitely feel better after [exercising]. If I’m stuck on an assignment, I’ll go out and exercise and it’ll be a lot better after that.” [3] 

The study showed that the most significant improvement in mood came from exercise that occurred for 15-30 minutes, three times a week, for a period of 10 weeks. However, exercise done less frequently or for less time still positively affected participants. [4] 

There are several ways that exercise improves mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence.”  

In addition, exercise can give you a chance to meet new people. “Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.” [5] 

Exercising is also a healthy way to cope with the storms that often come with many mental health issues. Instead of possibly drinking, brooding, or using other harmful and dangerous survival strategies, exercise gives a constructive and low-risk way to work out feelings. [6] 

“I like to go disc golfing and I come back feeling better,” said freshman history major Wesley Oliver. [7] 

Exercise improving mental health is hardwired into the brain. When exercise occurs, endorphins are released. These endorphins are “natural cannabis-like brain chemicals,” also known as endogenous cannabinoids. [8] As their name suggests, they relax the body and improve the overall sense of well-being.  

In addition, the increased blood flow to the brain influences the three main hormone releasers in the brain: the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. These three areas of the brain are responsible for the body’s response to stress. Increased blood flow to them is believed to contribute to lower levels of anxiety. In short, exercise hacks brain chemistry and reroutes negative pathways, helping you feel better. [9] 



  1. Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry8(2), 106. 
  2. Guszkowska M. (2004). Wpływ ćwiczeń fizycznych na poziom leku i depresji oraz stany nastroju [Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood]. Psychiatria polska38(4), 611–620.  
  3. Interview with Joel Morin, 11/4/2022. 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. (2017). Mayo Clinic. 
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Interview with Wesley Oliver, 11/1/2022. 
  8. Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. (2017). Mayo Clinic. 
  9. Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry8(2), 106. 
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