As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and holistic Executive Coach, I’m always interested in what increases productivity, mood, and overall health in my clients. In both my mental health practice as well as in coaching, my intake interview includes asking a question surrounding physical exercise. This is because time and time again I’ve found that regular exercise (especially if it’s in nature) plays a positive role in overall health and functioning. 

From the beginning of our programming, Compass Rose Academy has implemented physical activity into our daily routines. We have an expectation that our students exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, and oftentimes, we exceed that amount of time by incorporating hikes, canoe rides, rock wall climbing, and other adventures to create an active, healthy lifestyle. During their daily exercise, some of our students choose to get a group together and play volleyball or kickball, while others prefer to swim, lift weights, or walk laps around campus. We even reserve sessions at the local CrossFit gym each week so our girls can participate in an organized workout regimen off-campus with trained facilitators. We do this for a number of reasons, many of which were intuitive, and all which are evidenced in the growing body of research around this topic.

Most people, from experience alone, can identify with “feeling better” when regularly exercising. This has certainly been the case for me over the years. This “feeling better” is associated with many outcomes: increased energy, increased self-confidence, increased feelings of connection (when exercising with others), and increased groundedness/presence. While there may be many confounding variables (release of cortisol, effects of nature, relational connection/support, self-image, etc.), what we know is that exercise improves anxiety and stress, significantly reduces depression, and improves psychological, physiological, and immunological functioning (Bauer & Varahram, 2001; Mikkelsena, Stonjanovska, Polenakovic, Bosevski & Apostolopaulos, 2017). 

So if you’re not already regularly exercising, incorporate some exercise into your daily routines. Even just 5 minutes of exercise has been found to reap benefits (Wood, 2013). If you don’t feel like you have the creativity, understanding, or determination to set your own routines, it may be worth it to you to engage the help of a professional or exercise aficionado to help support you with the structure and expertise you need. We encourage you, like us, to go after the increased mental (and holistic) health benefits this practice has to offer!

–By Madeline Spring, Director of Admissions for Compass Rose Academy