Health initiative positively affects mental health

By Megan Palumbo – Sports Editor 

When members of the Lasell community were introduced to the Lasell Health Initiative last fall, thoughts of staying active with exercise classes may have ran through their heads. In a more broad sense, the initiative could be thought about as living a healthier lifestyle and taking care of their bodies physically. The Health Initiative is much more than improving fitness. These exercise classes can also be looked at to improve mental health, especially for college students. 

“Exercise is a huge stress reducer. There’s a lot of research that says it decreases anxiety and stress levels. We know when students are really stressed, they don’t tend to perform as well academically,” said Marisa Hastie, Associate Professor of Exercise Science and the creator of the initiative. “The classes like yoga is a healthy way to manage stress and regain that feeling of empowerment to tackle whatever comes at them.”

Sophomore Jessica Derosa said, “I think exercising helps a lot with mental health. When you work out and have fun you just all around feel good and feel better about yourself.” Derosa goes to Zumba classes every Monday night in the dance studio.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four college students have a diagnosable illness such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and Bipolar disorder. Out of those students, 80 percent feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, causing them to acquire these mental illnesses. Lasell’s mission with creating a Health Initiative not only brings a community together, but prevents students from getting to the overwhelmed stage by participating in these exercise classes. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep as well as reducing stress levels.

The Health Initiative is flexible and offers a variety of workout classes. Zumba, yoga, HIIT training, metabolic training, and even weight lifting classes are offered and instructed by Lasell students and professors. Participants may feel that Zumba is too intense for them and they’d much rather relax with yoga. Others may enjoy the high intensity interval training because they’re getting more out of their workout than just laying on a mat. Either situation, the Health Initiative tackles all different desires for getting active.

“The classes are fun and after I feel good about myself because I got a workout all while having fun with my friends,” said Derosa. “I look forward to going to Zumba every week because it’s fun and different from normal workouts.”

“After going to the classes, you come away with new friends and more ways to better your overall health,” said junior Gregory Camillone, who tried the salsa dancing class this month.

Each class has a hidden message and result for each member. Studies show that exercising is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and enhancing overall mental functions. For college students and even older folk, managing stress levels is important. With the Lasell Health Initiative doing this is possible and easier than people expect.

“I think being healthy mentally can contributes to your ability to keep your body healthy physically, and being physically healthy contribute to your ability to be mentally healthy,” said Hastie. “I think in society today we’ve somehow separated those two things when in reality they’re interconnected and someone can’t be one without the other.”

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