Exercise is an effective way to combat the stresses surrounding Covid-19, and it doesn't have to cost the earth to reap the benefits. As studies show the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on mental health, more people are turning to exercise to boost their spirits.
Physical activity is well known to benefit the body by keeping you strong, reducing the risk of certain diseases and helping maintain a healthy weight.
In recent months, many people were forced to spend long periods of time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic and exercise has become a cathartic way of tackling stress and beating boredom. Numerous studies conducted since March, when lockdown increasingly came into force worldwide, have shown the toll of Covid-19 on our mental health. Loneliness, boredom, missing loved ones, childcare duties, feeling trapped at home, financial woes and worrying about illness were highlighted as major factors.
Mind.org has declared a “mental health emergency” after their survey of almost 16,000 people in the U.K. found more than half of adults and over two thirds of young people felt their mental health declined during lockdown. Exercise has offered a small ray of light during some tough times.
“A recent study published in The Lancet looked at the link between mental health and exercise,” Dr Sadaf Hussain, GP and founder of Zoom Clinic, told 'Cover Media'.
“It essentially found that individuals who exercised had 43 per cent fewer days of poor mental health in the past month than individuals who did not exercise but were otherwise matched for several physical and sociodemographic characteristics. Other research has found that exercise participants felt more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to after periods of inactivity.”
Many of us have discovered a newfound appreciation for outdoor spaces and are walking, working out or jogging in the fresh air. Instead of hopping in the car to run an errand, consider walking or cycling instead. It's amazing how easily you can incorporate exercise into your routine whatever your fitness level or ability.
“The optimal duration was found to be 45 minutes of exercise three to five times per week,” Dr Hussain explains. “According to the mental health foundation, physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our wellbeing. Even a short burst of 10 minutes' brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. Participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem, and can reduce stress, depression and anxiety.
“Studies have shown that exercise during the day can also help you sleep better.”