Skip to Content

Pandemic Stress Keeps Many From Exercising

MONDAY, April 19, 2021 -- Exercise can provide a much-needed mental health boost during the COVID-19 pandemic. But stress and anxiety may hold you back, new research suggests.

According to a survey by researchers at McMaster University in Canada, some people may need mental health support to exercise during the pandemic.

"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," said study co-author Jennifer Heisz, an associate professor in the department of kinesiology.

"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," she said in a university news release.

For the study, the researchers surveyed more than 1,600 people to find out how and why their mental health and physical activity have changed since the start of the pandemic. The respondents reported higher levels of psychological stress and moderate levels of anxiety and depression triggered by the pandemic.

Overall, aerobic activity fell about 20 minutes a week, strength training fell about 30 minutes a week, and inactivity increased about 30 minutes a day, compared with the six months before the pandemic, the findings showed.

People with the largest decreases in physical activity had the worst declines in mental health, while those who maintained their exercise levels did much better in terms of mental health, according to the researchers.

The study was published online recently in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Our results point to the need for additional psychological supports to help people maintain their physical activity levels during stressful times in order to minimize the burden of the pandemic and prevent the development of a mental health crisis," Heisz said.

The researchers offered the following advice to get or remain active during the pandemic:

  • Remember that some exercise is better than none.
  • Move a little every day.
  • Reduce your exercise intensity if you feel anxious.
  • Break up sedentary time with breaks to stand or move.
  • Schedule time for exercise.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Read this next

Lots of Sugary Drinks Doubles Younger Women's Colon Cancer Risk: Study

FRIDAY, May 7, 2021 -- Rates of colon cancer among young Americans are on the rise, and a new study suggests that drinking too many sugary beverages may be to blame -- at least...

AHA News: How Social Isolation Can Harm Health as You Age – and How to Prevent It

FRIDAY, May 7, 2021 (American Heart Association News) -- Barbara Stopfer hasn't had much of a social life since her husband died six years ago. She stopped seeing coworkers, too,...

Gene Tied to Balding May Also Raise COVID Risks for Men

FRIDAY, May 7, 2021 -- It's long been known that COVID-19 is more fatal for men than women, and new research links some of that excess risk to a gene known to cause a form of hair...

More News Resources

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Whatever your topic of interest, subscribe to our newsletters to get the best of in your inbox.