Mental health both a motivator and barrier to physical activity during COVID-19 pandemic
Physical activity can help benefit mental health, but new research shows that people with severe mental health conditions tend to be less physically active than those with good mental health.
A new study by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, has found that the anxiety and stress that have accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic have made it less likely that people will engage in physical activity that could help them maintain their mental health.
The results showed that those who have remained physically active during the pandemic have done so primarily to maintain their mental health. For others, mental health problems have become a barrier to exercise.
According to the research, respondents to the study reported higher psychological stress and moderate levels of anxiety and depression triggered by the pandemic. At the same time, aerobic activity was down about 20 minutes per week, strength training was down roughly 30 minutes per week, and sedentary time was up about 30 minutes per day compared to six months prior to the pandemic.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Jennifer Heisz, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University.
“Even though exercise comes with the promise of reducing anxiety, many respondents felt too anxious to exercise. Likewise, although exercise reduces depression, respondents who were more depressed were less motivated to get active, and lack of motivation is a symptom of depression,” Heisz says.
“Maintaining a regular exercise program is difficult at the best of times, and the conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may be making it even more difficult,” says Dr. Heisz.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been ravaging both our bodies and our brains for over a year now.