A third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression.
That’s the grim finding of a new Census Bureau survey that shows the alarming psychological toll of the coronavirus pandemic.[i]
The survey asked questions used to screen patients for mental health problems. Twenty-four percent of people showed symptoms of major depression. Thirty percent showed symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. These figures are double those found in a similar survey in 2014.
What’s the best way to help the millions of people who are suffering from pandemic-related mental anguish?
A new study from Iowa State University may provide the answer.
The researchers compiled data from 3,000 people. The subjects gave detailed information on how often they exercised before the pandemic and after it started. They revealed how much time they spent sitting, how often they were sheltering in place, and going out. They also discussed their levels of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
Scientists found that more exercise is consistently linked to better mental health. Less exercise is associated with psychological problems.
People who had exercised before the pandemic but rarely afterwards were more likely to feel worried and lonely…especially if they kept themselves fully quarantined. They suffered from more stress and anxiety compared to people who kept up an exercise regimen.
Professor Jacob Meyer was one of the study’s lead authors. He said that in “the same stressful situation” people who stayed physically active “experienced less symptoms of depression and anxiety, across the board.”
Study co-author Dr. Cillian McDowell said the study “suggests that maintaining and ideally increasing our current levels of activity is an effective way to manage (pandemic) stress.”[ii]
The Single Most Effective Way to Fight Coronavirus Stress
The researchers found that exercising for at least 150 minutes a week, or 25 minutes a day, reduces the risk of mental health problems during the pandemic.
The study did not show that one type of activity is better than another. Walk, run, bike, lift, swim…
Other research has found that yoga may be the single most effective activity for fighting stress. Go here to learn simple anxiety-reducing poses.
But you should do whatever kind of exercise you enjoy most. The important thing is that you stay active.
Americans suffering from mental health problems caused by the pandemic far outnumber those who actually have the virus. Exercise may be the best way to help them.
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