Evidence of Physical Activity Benefits in Student Populations

Most people acknowledge that physical activity has many physical health benefits, but research also supports the improvement of mental health with increased exercise as well! Especially during particularly stressful periods like study or exam week, it becomes even more imperative to get moving! 


According to research presented in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal, compared to 30 minutes of quiet rest, 30 minute bouts of exercise “significantly improved worry engagement, state anxiety, and feelings of energy and fatigue."


Herring, Matthew P, et al. “Acute Exercise Effects among Young Adults with Analogue Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30531490.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released its second national Physical Activity Guideline for both youth and adult populations. This report is meant to help inform the public about recommended exercise guidelines and the benefits associated with increasing physical activity. This report also stressed that even everyday activities like doing chores or walking your dog can get you up and moving! 


HHS Office, and Council on Sports. “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” HHS.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services, 1 Feb. 2019, www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html.

Research conducted by the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal investigates the benefit of exercise on cognitive abilities. "Working memory also improved acutely, especially after moderate-intensity, and greater acute improvements predicted greater working memory improvement with training."


While this study does not suggest that working out for hours before your anatomy or physics exam will help you memorize every structure or formula, this research supports the correlation between memory performance and physical activity!


Voss, Michelle W, et al. “Acute Exercise Effects Predict Training Change in Cognition and Connectivity.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31385912.

Research done by UNLV's own Dr. Jalene has supported much of this previously described evidence! As someone who works with college students on a daily basis, her research was aimed at understanding the relationship between exercise and depression in the student demographic.  According to her findings, "Those with low fitness were 3.21 times more likely to report any level of depression and 2.39 times more likely to report moderate to severe depression."


Jalene, Sharon, "College Student Depression: An Examination of Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Gender and Sexual Orientation Diversity, and Help-Seeking Willingness" (2019). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 3621. https://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/thesesdissertations/3621

The American Heart Association has also presented research describing the correlation between low cardiorespiratory fitness, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and even rates of cancers. This research also reports that cardiorespiratory fitness is one of the strongest indicators of overall mortality! 




Ross, Robert, et al. “Importance of Assessing Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Clinical Practice: A Case for Fitness as a Clinical Vital Sign: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” Circulation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 Dec. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27881567.