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The effects of physical activity on depression and anxiety

Mental health and wellbeing is a much discussed area of interest, especially since the pandemic erupted. Due to the large crisis of mental health problems, resources are stretched to unimaginable levels and many are not getting the help they so desperately need.

So what can you do? What we do know is that physical activity has positive effects on the wellbeing and mental health of individuals, and this can include walking, cycling, gardening and sports. Physical activity improves the general quality of sleep, and we all know what it feels like to be sleep deprived, where you struggle to function and stay positive. The effects of physical activity is true for both adults and children, with known benefits to help prevent symptoms of depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem.

The World Health Survey, including 47 countries, showed that low physical activity is connected with an increased prevalence of anxiety, which is true for both males and females. Those that choose to be active, and enjoy their activity are more likely to have a positive effect, whilst those that are forced or pressured into exercise can actively have an inverse effect on mental health.

Another by-product of the lockdowns is that many of us are moving less due to remote working environments. Research has shown that those that sit for more than seven hours a day and are not physically active, are more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms than those that sit for four hours and engage in physical activity.

The research for physical activity on mental health is very evident and reflects the clear need for us to become more active, sit less and have greater exposure to greenspace.

Kajtna, T. and Vuckovic, V. (2022). Effects of decrease of physical activity on depression and anxiety after the COVID-19 lockdown: A survey study. Front. Psychol. 961798.


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