Studies show that people are more prone to anxiety, stress, confusion and even mounting anger during quarantines and lockdowns. Now, recent research reveals that one way to cope with negative feelings is through exercise.
A new study on the effects of exercise showed that people sheltered at home during the COVID-19 crisis who kept up their physical activity were less likely to be depressed and were mentally more resilient than people who slowed down.
According to The New York Times, the researchers compared exercise and moods in over 3,000 people using questionnaires and found that people who exercised consistently were happier.
They also found that those who had worked out regularly before the pandemic, and were now less physically active, were “significantly more likely to feel depressed, anxious, lonely and otherwise worried and dour than people who had continued to work out for at least 150 minutes a week.”
The World Health Organization stated: “Staying at home for prolonged periods of time can pose a significant challenge for remaining physically active. Sedentary behavior and low levels of physical activity can have negative effects on the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals.”
WHO also noted that self-quarantine can add stress and challenge to the mental health of people. “Physical activity and relaxation techniques can be valuable tools to help you remain calm and continue to protect your health at this time,” the organization said.
The Conversation explained that “exercise tones the stress system so that it can tolerate a higher level of stress with less reaction and faster recovery,” making us more resilient to all forms of stressors, even the psychological ones brought on by this pandemic.
Results from the new study, published this month at the site Cambridge Open Engage, support this.
“This study suggests that maintaining and ideally increasing our current levels of activity is an effective way to manage this stress,” said Cillian McDowell, a researcher at Trinity College Dublin and one of the study’s lead authors.
Dr. Jacob Meyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and the study’s other lead author said, according to the Times, that exercise is hardly going to fix everything that is frightening about the pandemic.
“But it can be one thing we have control over. We can get up and move.”
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