Physical Activity and Mental Health During Covid-19

A new systematic review of research was published in BMC Public Health (2022) examining the association between physical activity and mental health during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thirty-one studies were included in this review.

Overall, the studies suggested that higher physical activity is associated with higher well-being, quality of life as well as lower depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress, independently of age. 

The authors concluded that physical activity has been a good and effective choice to mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among studies examining children and adolescents, both moderate and highly active groups were significantly associated with less depressive symptoms and anxiety, and only the most active adolescents reported significantly lower insomnia symptoms and better mood states.

Days of physical activity per week was stronger predictor of well-being than minutes of physical activity per week.

We recommend that promoting physical activity, particularly among youth, is a continued priority to improve mental health declines seen during Covid-19.

Since less than a quarter of US high school adolescents get the recommended amount of one-hour of physical activity every day it is imperative that all mental health professionals, teachers, coaches, and parents provide motivational interventions and opportunities for youth to get plenty of daily movement.

This should include participating in fun sports and activities so that youth learn life-time behaviors that will enhance their mental wellbeing now and in the future.

In addition, priority should be given to providing youth with motivational programs that address multiple lifestyle behaviors to further enhance mental health outcomes, including physical activity, nutrition, sleep and alcohol and drug use prevention.

Read the study article: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-022-12590-6

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