We walk through the doors of the fitness center, give our Phoenix cards to the front desk staff and head up the stairs. Fingers crossed, we stare through the glass to see how crowded it is. We breathe a sigh of relief when there are only a few people working out, or tense up when it’s packed.

Talking with students on campus, there seems to be a love-hate relationship with the gym. First-year Mollie Somers said,  “Fitness is a great positive outlet for stress and an awesome way to challenge yourself and discover new limits.” Even on busy days, she makes time for exercise, as “it’s an important part of [her] day and always makes [her] feel refreshed.” 

Other students shared that they love the idea of the gym but rarely manage to get themselves there. Sometimes, students will even dress in workout clothes in the morning with the intention of exercising, but after sitting in class for hours with a long list of assignments due the next day, end up studying in the library instead. 

Even after a productive day getting work done, for some it could feel wasted if they miss another day of exercise. Students can get mad at themselves for not going to the gym, punishing themselves and creating a cycle that could be hard to escape. 

Exercise can be a positive outlet for the stress that comes with being a college student and can offer a good distraction. It can also be a place that exposes our insecurities. We see people sprinting on the treadmill, mastering their ab routines and lifting weights with great form. While we feel as if everyone is staring at us, we forget that we already overcame the hardest part — walking through the door.

There are many different types of gym-goers. There are those who are all in and others who are all out. If you’re like me, you fall somewhere in between. Everyone is different, and there’s nothing wrong with going every now and then, as long as we do so with a healthy mindset.

Feelings of depression and anxiety are very prevalent among college students. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness’ research, one in four college students suffers from some form of mental illness. Diagnosed or not, students in general feel overwhelmed with their responsibilities. Exercise can be a safe, positive outlet to help relieve our stress. It releases endorphins, serves as a distraction and helps us build confidence in ourselves.

The gym is not as scary as it seems. For those of us worried that we look silly, we should plan workouts in advance. We can bring a friend to help us stay motivated, or take group exercise classes offered for a guided, scheduled workout.

If nothing you hear from medical experts, gym-junkies or me convinces you to go, consider this: Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic state that any type of physical exercise can improve health. While they consider exercise “a planned, structured and repetitive body movement done to improve or maintain physical fitness,” physical activity is classified as “any activity that contracts muscles and expends energy.” Something as painless as a hike or long walk with friends is still beneficial.

There is no single form of exercise that suits everyone. Find what works for you and embrace it — for the sake of your physical health, mental health and overall college success.