Monday, June 1, 2020

Exercise As A Remedy For COVID Stress

Today is the last day of the circuit breaker (CB) or lockdown period in Singapore. Finally, light at the end of the tunnel.

During the CB, I've noticed a lot more people in my neighborhood running than before, and many you can tell, never really exercised regularly previously. But good for them, at least they are exercising now. I guess with all the free time, gyms closed and not wanting to lose their sanity, many people go walking and running.

You can probably guess that quarantines and lockdowns or similar measures to combat plagues are associated with poor mental health. Past quarantines resulted in lingering stress levels, confusion and mounting anger (Brooks et al, 2020).

A recently published study (though not peer reviewed) done in the early stages of the lockdown (in USA) suggested that benefits of exercising extended beyond just physical benefits and help us mentally too (McDowell et al, 2020).

The study found that people who managed to keep exercising during the lockdown were less depressed and more mentally resilient compared to those whose activity levels declined.

Data from manufacturers of activity trackers showed that most people's daily step count decreased from March since most countries were under lockdown during that period.

In that study, researchers asked about 3000 non smoking subjects probing questions about their personal lives. Multiple questionnaires about how often they exercised and how many hours were spent sitting before the pandemic began.

This was compared to the lockdown period in April. Subjects were asked if they were fully self quarantined at home or did they get a chance to go outside while following social distancing rules.

They were also asked about their current mental health, whether they had symptoms of depression, anxiety, loneliness or if they were generally happy.

After collating the replies, the researches split the subjects into groups based on whether they previously had or had not met the standard exercise guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise now compared to before the lockdown. The researchers then compared exercise routines and moods.

No surprises that the researchers found that those who managed to exercise were more cheerful and vice versa. The people  who previously had been active but because of the lockdown rarely exercised were more likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely and worried compared those who still managed get in 150 minutes of exercise a week.

Those subjects in full quarantine were the most affected as few managed to maintain any exercise routine and they reported feeling sad, depressed and solitary.

After looking at the study in detail, I noticed that most of the respondents were middle class well educated whites. Not many of other races were represented.

Because this study relied on their memories of the exercise routines, the findings may not be totally reliable as it covers separate but temporary parts of their lives during the lockdown. We can perhaps infer that exercise and their moods were linked.

I can definitely testify that exercise can improve moods and well being. If you haven't been able to exercise and get out much during the CB, bear in mind that we still have to exit the CB in stages.

Stay safe.


Brooks SK, Webster RK et al (20120). The Psychological Impact Of Quarantine And How To Reduce It: Rapid Review Of The Evidence. 395: 912-920. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460.

McDowell C, Lansing J et al (2020). Changes In Physical Activity And Sedentary Behaviour Due To COVID-19 Outbreak And Associations With Mental Health in 3,052 Adults. Cambridge Open Engage. DOI:10.33774/coe-2020-h0b8g.

See if you can guess where I took the following pictures during my solo CB rides.
Guess where this tank is?
Abandoned guard tower
Not in use water tank?

No comments:

Post a Comment