As college students, we often neglect our health in favor of academia. What we may not realize, however, is that the state of our minds has a profound effect on our physical health. The mental and physical aspects of our bodies are intimately linked, although many details of this relationship are not yet well understood by science. Numerous studies, though, have been conducted that all point to the same conclusion: we have to be mentally healthy to be physically healthy.
Many studies have discovered a positive correlation between poor mental health and instances of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that anger and other mental stressors contributed to risks for heart arrhythmia as well as heart failure. Several researchers at Bangor University in Wales also discovered that people who were more mentally rested prior to a workout were able to perform better compared to those who were mentally exhausted.
There have also been many links found between a healthy body and brain function. A group of German medical students conducted an experiment which showed a sizably larger hippocampus and increased spatial memory capacity in elderly adults who were in better physical shape. The hippocampus is the site of short-term memory conversion to long-term memory and of most spatial navigation. Thus, healthier adult males showed the potential for improved spatial faculties and for stronger memory function as a result of being more fit.
Interestingly, the opposite relationship, where physical health impacts mental health, has also been found to be true. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered a link between balance and anxiety in young children. They found that improving the sense of balance many children had resulted in a reduction of anxiety levels in the children, improving their academic performance and behavior. A study published in New Scientist discovered that sleep deprivation can often be a cause of mental health problems, not simply a symptom.
Please do not be intimidated by all of these studies and experiments! The basic thing you should take away is that your mental and physical health are absolutely interdependent. Working out and eating healthy are just as important as keeping your mind and spirit clear. Meditation, yoga, and other spiritual exercises can aid in improving mental health, which consequently can make your body feel better too. Eating healthy and just getting out 3 to 5 times a week for any kind of physical activity can keep you fit and more stress-free. If that’s not your cup of tea, doing things you enjoy and taking a break from studying even for just a little while can really have significant benefits towards your overall health. Just remember to take care of both your mind and body to be truly healthy!
- Anger management: The key to staying heart healthy? from EurekAlert! by the American Association for the Advancement of Science <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-02/acoc-amt021909.php>
- Mind Out of Balance, Body Out of Balance from American Friends of Tel Aviv University <http://www.aftau.org/site/News2?id=8503>
- Spatial memory, recognition memory, and the hippocampus from PubMed Central by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the US National Library of Medicine <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC521976/>
Article by Amanda Lu
Feature Image Source: A Fit Nurse