6.1 Physical and Mental Health

“Mens sana in corpore sano”
– Latin: “A healthy mind in a healthy body”

Questions to consider:

  • What are physical and mental health
  • How important is exercise to a healthy body and mind?

Learning Objectives

  • Understand physical health
  • Identify the benefits of regular exercise, for both body and mind
  • Understand mental health, risks and warning signs
  • Identify the benefits of sleep for both physical and mental health

In this section you will learn the importance of physical and mental health. Often physical and mental health are overlooked when we are busy. Taking care of your physical and mental health doesn’t mean training for a marathon or 7-day meditation retreat. It means honoring your physical and mental needs so your body can function properly, feeding your cells the nutrients that will keep your body working well your, resting well, exercising, and managing your stress.

Physical Health

Physical health represents one aspect of total well-being. The term refers to the state of your physical body and how well it is operating. To maintain a good physical health, there are activities that you can do: exercise, eat well, and sleep. The short video below explains what physical health is.

Source: https://youtu.be/AEPnYII8uSI


Regular Exercise

The importance of getting regular exercise is probably nothing new to you. The health benefits are well known and established: Regular physical activity can produce long-term health benefits by reducing your risk of many health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and it can also increase your chances of living longer, help you control your weight, and even help you sleep better.

As a busy college student, you may be thinking, I know this, but I don’t have time! I have classes and work and a full life! What you may not know is that—precisely because you have such a demanding, possibly stressful schedule—now is the perfect time to make exercise a regular part of your life. Getting into an effective exercise routine now will not only make it easier to build healthy habits that you can take with you into your life after college, but it can actually help you be a more successful student, too. As you’ll see in the section on brain health, below, exercise is a powerful tool for improving one’s mental health and memory—both of which are especially important when you’re in school.

The good news is that most people can improve their health and quality of life through a modest increase in daily activity. You don’t have to join a gym, spend a lot of money, or even do the same activity every time—just going for a walk or choosing to take the stairs (instead of the elevator) can make a difference.

Our bodies are more prone to getting sick if they are not well taken care of. Getting sick in the middle of an academic term can effect your academic performance.

Many people exercise to maintain or lose weight, but weight loss is only one potential benefit of exercise. Regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep, strengthen your bones, increase your energy levels, and reduce your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. Regular exercise is key to living a long, healthy life.

Physical Fitness and Types of Exercise

Physical fitness is a state of well-being that gives you sufficient energy to perform daily physical activities without getting overly tired or winded. It also means being in good enough shape to handle unexpected emergencies involving physical demands—that is, if someone said, “Run for your life!” or you had to rush over and prevent a child from falling, you’d be able to do it.

There are many forms of exercise—dancing, rock climbing, walking, jogging, yoga, bike riding, you name it—that can help you become physically fit. The major types are described below.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate, works your muscles, and raises your breathing rate. For most people, it’s best to aim for a total of about thirty minutes a day, four or five days a week. If you haven’t been very active recently, you can start out with five or ten minutes a day and work up to more time each week. Or, split up your activity for the day: try a brisk ten-minute walk after each meal. If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to exercise more than thirty minutes a day. The following are some examples of aerobic exercise:

  • A brisk walk (outside or inside on a treadmill)
  • Dancing
  • A low-impact aerobics class
  • Swimming or water aerobic exercises
  • Ice-skating or roller-skating
  • Playing tennis
  • Riding a stationary bicycle indoors

Strength Training

Strength training, done several times a week, helps build strong bones and muscles and makes everyday chores like carrying heavy backpacks (or grocery bags) easier. When you have more muscle mass, you burn more calories, even at rest. Here are some ways to do it:

  • Join a class to do strength training with weights, elastic bands, or plastic tubes (if your college has a gym, take advantage of it!)
  • Lift light weights at home

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility exercises, also called stretching, help keep your joints flexible and reduce your risk of injury during other activities. Gentle stretching for 5 to 10 minutes helps your body warm up and get ready for aerobic activities such as walking or swimming. Classes like yoga, stretching, and/or Pilates can increase your flexibility.

Being Active Throughout the Day

In addition to formal exercise, there are many opportunities to be active throughout the day. Being active helps burns calories. The more you move around, the more energy you will have. The following strategies can help you increase your activity level:

  • Walk instead of drive whenever possible
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park at the far end of the campus lot and walk to class

Benefits of Exercise and Physical Fitness


Exercise, even after age fifty, can add healthy, active years to one’s life. Studies continue to show that it’s never too late to start exercising and that even small improvements in physical fitness can significantly lower the risk of death. Simply walking regularly can prolong your life.

Moderately fit people—even if they smoke or have high blood pressure—have a lower mortality rate than the least fit. Resistance training is important because it’s the only form of exercise that can slow and even reverse the decline of muscle mass, bone density, and strength. Adding workouts that focus on speed and agility can be especially protective for older people. Flexibility exercises help reduce the stiffness and loss of balance that accompanies aging.

Brain: Mood, Memory, Creativity

In addition to keeping your heart healthy, helping with weight loss, and helping you live longer, regular exercise can also improve your mood and help keep depression and anxiety at bay.



  • Plan a regular exercise program that works for you.


  • Sometimes getting started is the hardest part of being physically active. The important thing is to find activities you like to do, so you’ll stick with them.
  • List 3 physical activities that you enjoy doing or would like to try doing on a regular basis.
  • Set a realistic, weekly exercise time goal for yourself (150 minutes or more per week is ideal, but start with what you can really do).
  • Using a digital or printed calendar, plan and label the days of the week, times, and places that you plan to exercise. Specify the activity or activities that you intend to do.
  • Track your progress for one week, recording the amount of time you actually exercised. If you engaged in any unplanned physical activities (say you ended up riding your bike to school instead of taking the bus), include those, too.
  • Write about your experience in a short journal entry (1–2 pages) and reflect on what you learned:
    • What kinds of exercise did you engage in, and which did you enjoy the most?
    • What was your weekly time goal? Did you meet it?
    • What worked or didn’t work?
    • What might you need to change in order to make exercise a regular habit?

Mental Health

The World Health Organization ranks mental health conditions as the leading cause of disability in the United States. One in four adults experience a diagnosable mental health disorder in any given year, yet more than half will not seek treatment. The primary reason people don’t seek the help they need is shame and fear of judgment from friends, family, and coworkers. It is important to remove any stigma associated with mental health and encourage those who need help to seek support.

Mental health is “the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment.”22

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, or mood. The condition may affect a person’s ability to relate to others and function throughout the day.

mental health condition isn’t the result of one event; it is most often the result of multiple overlapping causes. Environment, lifestyle, and genetic predisposition can all be factors in whether someone develops a mental health condition. Traumatic life events or stressful experiences may make some people more susceptible, and brain biochemistry may play a role as well. Mental health conditions show up in many ways. Anxiety, depression, and eating disorders are some of the most common.

Anxiety Disorders

We all experience the occasional feeling of anxiety, which is quite normal. New situations, meeting new people, driving in traffic, and public speaking are just a few of the common activities that can cause people to feel anxious. It is important to seek help when these feelings become overwhelming, cause fear, or keep us from doing everyday activities. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern, and while there are many types of anxiety disorders, they all have one thing in common: “persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening.”23 Physically, your heart may race, and you may experience shortness of breath, nausea, or intense fatigue. Talk with a College counselor or a mental health care professional if you experience a level of anxiety that keeps you from your study or regular daily activities.


Most people feel sad at times. This is a normal reaction to loss or struggles we face. Being sad is not the same as having depression. When intense sadness lasts for several days or even weeks and you are no longer interested in activities you once enjoyed, it may be depression. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

Depression does not have a single cause. It can follow a life crisis or physical illness, but it can also occur spontaneously. Several factors including trauma, a significant life change, brain injury, and drug and alcohol misuse may contribute to depression. Depression is a treatable medical condition. Talk with a counselor or a mental health care professional if you experience an ongoing level of sadness that keeps you from your regular daily activities.

Suicidal Behavior

Suicide is when people direct violence at themselves with the intent to end their lives, and they die because of their actions.

People who contemplate suicide often experience a deep feeling of hopelessness. They often don’t feel they can cope with challenging life events and are not able to see solutions to problems. In the moment, they are unable to see that the challenges are really only temporary. Most survivors of suicide attempts go on to live wonderful, full lives.

Depression is a key risk factor for suicide, along with substance abuse, chronic debilitating pain, mental health disorders, and a family history of suicide.

These are some of the warning signs to help you determine if a friend or loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event:

  • talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online
  • talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • talking about being a burden to others
  • increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • sleeping too little or too much
  • withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • extreme mood swings

Family and friends are often the first to recognize any warning signs and can help take the first step in finding treatment.

If you or someone you know has warning signs of suicide or telling you that they are going to kill themselves, do not leave them alone. Distress Centres of Greater Toronto at 408-HELP (4357) provides telephone support to individuals in the community who are at risk and their most vulnerable. Highly-trained volunteer responders (with the support of professional staff) connect with callers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Because entering college is such a big transition, it is important to know what health services are available on your campus. A majority of college students feel anxious, lonely, or depressed at some point during the year. We all have bad days, and sometimes bad days string into weeks. It’s OK to feel bad. What’s important is to acknowledge and work through your feelings, and find a friend or a counselor to talk to. Some help may be beyond the scope of a college counseling program, and if this is the case, your college health center can refer you to off-campus resources to support you.

Check out the video below on student health and wellness on campus. You can call  CENTRE FOR ACCESSIBLE LEARNING AND COUNSELLING SERVICES at 416-289-5000, ext. 3850 or email calcs@centennialcollege.ca


Source: https://youtu.be/YYaU38B7LzU


Key Takeaways

  • Emotional balance starts with being aware of your emotions and understanding them, balancing the negative with the positive.
  • Anxiety and Depression are common emotions we all feel at one time or another, if you are experiencing serious anxiety or depression, seek help from your healthcare professional or a college counsellor just like you would for any other illness.
  • Loneliness is a normal feeling college students can experience in a new education setting. Getting involved in the college community, staying in touch with friends and family, and study with classmates are excellent coping strategies. If you are having difficulty making new friends or dealing with loneliness, see a college counsellor for assistance.

Attributions and References

This chapter contains adaptations from:

Dillon, D. (2021). Blueprint for Success in College: Indispensable Study Skill and Time Management Strategies. Pressbook.
Book URL: https://press.rebus.community/blueprint1/
Section URL: https://press.rebus.community/blueprint1/chapter/49-exercise/
License: CC BY: Attribution


CC licensed content, Original:

All rights reserved content:

  • Physical Activity Guidelines. Provided by: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Located at: https://youtu.be/lEutFrar1dI. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube license

Public domain content:

College Success. (2022). OpenStax.
Book URL: https://openstax.org/details/books/college-success
Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/11-4-taking-care-of-your-mental-health
License: CC BY: Attribution

Wellness Basics taken from article What is Physical Health Source: https://www.projectschoolwellness.com/wellness-basics-what-is-physical-health/


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Fundamentals for Success in College Copyright © 2022 by Priti Parikh, Centennial College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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