Exercise and mental health during Covid-19: Study explores link, trends


THE mental health benefits of physical activity have been out of reach for people whose stress and anxiety levels have kept them from exercising during the pandemic, a new study shows.

People who have continued to exercise during the pandemic are more likely to be doing it for their mental health than for any other reason.

People who are less physically active than usual are experiencing more symptoms of mental health conditions during the pandemic.

Physical activity can help benefit mental health. ResearchTrusted Source also 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.

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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.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Jennifer Heisz, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University. Dr. Heisz says:
“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.”

The researchers collected data from 1,669 people for the study. The participants had to be at least 18 years old, be fluent in English, and have online access to the researchers’ 30-question survey.

One acknowledged limitation of the study is that its sample predominantly included well-educated, female Canadians aged 18–29 years. The authors do not report the racial or ethnic characteristics of the participants.

In addition, on average, the participants met the recommended physical activity levels, which is not true of the general population.

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