Making exercise a stress outlet may help students attain recommended amounts of physical activity and to maintain that routine, students need social support from family and friends, said researchers including one of an Indian origin.
"Accessing internal and external sources of inspiration and resilience is an effective and sustainable model for positive change," said Vinayak K. Nahar, Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi.
"Physicians who want to encourage their patients to get more physical activity should suggest the techniques from this study," he added.
For the study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers surveyed 135 college students, assessing their willingness to exercise for the recommended 150 minutes per week.
Participants were asked to weigh pros, like improved energy and health, against perceived disadvantages, like being tired and not having enough time for academics or leisure.
Once convinced that more exercise would benefit them, students were asked what they needed to get started. The single most significant factor was behavioural confidence which involves visualization of future performance and external sources of confidence like an encouraging mentor.
According to the survey, respondents indicated that sustaining the weekly 150 minutes of exercise would require the support of family and friends, as well as an emotional shift, in which students would use exercise as an outlet for stressors.
Respondents also said that social changes like making friends who also exercise regularly would improve their ability to persist.
"Nearly half of all adults in the US do not engage in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This basic lack of exercise is tied to myriad health problems, so it is important to address it early," said study lead author Manoj Sharma, Professor at the Jackson State University.