Fitness goes hand-in-hand with mental health

Volleyball coach Devri Ray. Photo courtesy Ray

When people think of mental health, they think of medications, therapy and relaxation. Many do not know that fitness goes hand-in-hand with mental health.

The definition of fitness is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy,” according to Oxford Languages. Fitness can play a big part in an individual’s mental health when introduced.

Growing up in St Thomas Virgin Islands, JazzMin Gardner, a first-year student at Florida A&M University, struggled with her mental health. Living between her mother and father was one of her troubles. While being bullied and having “normal adolescent” challenges, Gardner found a mental escape through fitness.

“Mental health and fitness go hand-in-hand, I used fitness to place my emotion in my workouts, and it was such a relief,” Gardner said.

Gardner took part in sports throughout her high school years which brought her closer to becoming an athletic trainer.

While being an athletic trainer for her high school, Gardner saw many students change how they speak about their mental health when going to work out. Seeing an increase in activity and stress relief in students who took part in sports, Gardner believes that being active can play a part in poor mental health.

“It is easy to fall into depression when you aren’t doing anything to rid your mind. But these students did find and output in sports and working out. So, it helps with dealing with depression and other mental health issues,” Gardner said.

Sophomore Devri Ray, started playing volleyball at 12 but wasn’t fond of the sport due to being forced to play. Trying a different approach to sports, Ray fell in love with football. “Playing football was great for my mental health because it was something I wanted to do on my own,” Ray said.

She could finally be herself when playing football, developed a sense of self, and was mentally healthy.

Being the coach for FAMU’s volleyball team at the recreational center on campus, Ray has built connections with her players and taken note of their mental stability when coming to practice.

“When my players arrive at practice, they tend to be happy to be there. That goes hand in hand with the environment you work out in,” Ray said.

Ray continues to speak about how people feed off energy and how fitness can be that partner that a person needs. It can play a significant role in their mental health, she said.

Poor mental health can adversely influence physical health and raise the chance of having several disorders, and poor physical health can also increase the risk of developing mental health issues. According to Thrive Works, it has been said that regular exercise keeps you both physically and emotionally fit. According to research, any exercise affects the brain’s production and absorption of feel-good chemicals or endorphins.