Study finds association between exercise and mental health

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A recent study found that people who exercised more during the initial period of the Covid-19 pandemic experienced less anxiety and depression than those who did not exercise.

It also showed that people who spent more time outdoors tended to experience lower levels of anxiety and depression than those who stayed at home. The results were published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

The study involved more than 20,000 people from 6 US regions served by Kaiser Permanente, including Hawaii, Colorado, Georgia and the Mid-Atlantic states, as well as Southern and Northern California.

“The results of this study tell us that even during an active pandemic or other public health crisis, people should be encouraged to be physically active to maintain their physical and mental health,” said study lead author Deborah Rom Young, Ph.D., director of the department. Behavioral Research Department of Research and Evaluation Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Parks and other natural areas should remain open during public health emergencies to encourage outdoor physical activity.”

In March 2020, COVID-19 escalated into a worldwide pandemic. With no known cure, health officials have tried to reduce its spread by limiting human interactions through sit-at-home policies.

Businesses have temporarily closed or changed their practices to prevent the spread of the virus, affecting the economy and jobs of many people. These stressors, along with less ability to interact with friends and family, exacerbate the symptoms of depression and anxiety in many people.

Because physical activity and time in nature are known to be associated with improved mental health, researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California sought to determine how exercise and time in nature were associated with mental health in people at the height of the pandemic.

In April 2020, researchers sent out a series of COVID-19 surveys to more than 250,000 members of the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank, a compilation of lifestyle surveys, electronic health records, and biological samples that were volunteered by members of Kaiser Permanente. People who reported COVID-19 symptoms were not included in this analysis, resulting in 20,012 respondents. Each of them conducted at least 4 surveys between April and July 2020.

White women over 50 made up a large proportion of the respondents. The majority of respondents stated that they had retired and generally adhered to the “safer at home” rule during the study period. Research has shown that:

– The number of reports of anxiety and depression has decreased over time.

– Rates of anxiety and depression were higher in women and young people, and lower in Asian and black people compared to whites.

– Participants who did not report physical activity reported the highest depression and anxiety compared to people who exercised.

– Spending less time outdoors was associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety.

The people who spent the most time outdoors were the most likely to report the highest rates of anxiety, but the study couldn’t explain this result.

“From these results, we learned that during future emergencies it will be important to carefully weigh decisions to close parks and open areas against the negative mental health impacts such closings can have,” said Dr. Young.

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This story was published from the news agency tape without text changes. Only the title has changed.



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