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Exercise improves mental health, but stress and anxiety get in the way

Exercise as a well-known mood booster. So you’d think movement would be a go-to for anyone stressed and anxious during the pandemic. 

Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

A recent study found that aerobic activity generally declined 20 minutes per week, while strength training was down 30 minutes per week. Sitting time, on the other hand, went up about 30 minutes a day compared to six months pre-pandemic.

Why? Funny enough, stress from the pandemic was a major factor. Many people claimed they were too anxious to exercise.

Unsurprisingly, avoiding movement has consequences. Those who reported the most significant decline in physical activity during lockdown had the worst mental health outcomes. 

It doesn’t help that lockdown measures closed or reduced gym hours. Sports leagues stopped. All these changes meant fewer places and opportunities to be active.

Young low-income adults in particular struggled to meet their movement needs. “It is plausible that younger adults who typically work longer hours and earn less are lacking both time and space, which is taking a toll,” said study co-author Maryam Marashi in a press release.

Meanwhile, those who kept up their exercise routine during the pandemic saw greater mental health perks.

Plus, they cared less about physical benefits like weight loss and strength, and were instead motivated by anxiety relief. 

Looking for ways to get moving post-pandemic? Start with these tips:

  • Only have ten minutes? No problem! Some movement is better than none.
  • Break up sitting time with jumping jacks or squats
  • Shift between sitting and standing
  • Schedule workouts in your calendar
  • Try easy activities like walking when you feel anxious or low-energy
  • Move a little every day
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