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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: How an exercise routine can improve mental and physical health

Spring in North Carolina
UNC junior Bryn Foster, photographed on April 13, 2021, spends a lot of time climbing in the Fetzer Gym as a hobby.

While the lives of UNC students can be chaotic and draining, many have found the gym to be a healthy outlet for stress relief. 

Unhealthy eating and exercise habits have plagued many college campuses, but the gym can also serve as a means of hope and optimism for students looking to get in shape. 

Chloe Morand de Jouvencel, a first-year, said she started going to the gym as a way to avoid gaining weight in college, but eventually fell in love with lifting. 

"Honestly, it has helped me feel more confident in my body and having it in my routine is sort of like therapy for me. So it does definitely alleviate stress from classes," she said.

This is the narrative of many college students, who began working out as a way to stay fit or lose weight, but it turns into an enjoyable activity that betters their whole life.

While unhealthy eating habits are also common around campus, Morand de Jouvencel said exercise has helped her change her mindset. 

"It has removed — for the most part — my unhealthy eating habits and thoughts on food," she said. "I was struggling with that for a while, but lifting has made me want to get stronger and start to see food as fuel."

The gym has encouraged students to reapproach the way they think about a healthy lifestyle, and it promotes better dieting habits.

Other students highlight the mental health benefits of lifting and how it has become a part of the day they look forward to the most.  

"So the gym has always been like an outlet for me. Initially it was just to get bigger, … after having comments made about my appearance, but after awhile it became a safe space, like an outlet for me to just get my mind off of things and then it just made me feel so much better and then I fell in love with it," said Bob Dang, a sophomore.

Seeing progress in the gym not only will improve confidence and self-image, but also releases endorphins and dopamine in the body. These chemicals produce feelings of happiness and stimulate reward systems in the brain, which can boost your mood and increase energy levels.

While lifting can take up to an hour or two of the day, students say that having a workout planned each day can create a more time-efficient schedule. 

"Lifting has helped me work my day around going to the gym, so I'm more productive," first-year Thalia Terlecki said. "It does help alleviate stress because I’m so focused on working out I can’t focus on other things."

Working out also minimizes the amount of free time that students have for toxic habits that can deteriorate their mental and physical health.

From scrolling on social media to excessive drinking and smoking, college is an environment that promotes short-term satisfaction over long-term achievements. The gym community at the Student Recreation Center on campus and gyms off-campus have offered college students an opportunity to break unhealthy habits and create a healthier lifestyle.

From what it sounds like for gym-goers at UNC, many lifting journeys began as a way to improve appearance and have cultivated various healthy habits. 

Utilizing these resources at UNC can be a useful tool to combat stress and fatigue throughout the school year and final season.


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