Depression Rates Up as Lockdowns Prevent Exercise

The results of the study were published on March 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lynn Bufka is Senior Director of Practice Quality and Transformation at the American Psychological Association. She said, targeting depression, “it is not known whether exercise alone is sufficient, or whether exercise is better when incorporated with more traditional interventions, such as psychotherapy or medication.”

What is clear, Bufka said, is that “exercise can release endorphins and other brain chemicals that increase well-being, and exercise can serve as a positive activity away from negative thoughts. or behaviors that can increase depression. “

The other thing to consider is that, “a lot of times the exercise happens with others, which is a natural social interaction,” Bufka noted. “Feeling confident and capable in our physical activities also supports our mood. We have a sense of control and in control over at least some aspects of our lives.”

Even in normal times, the challenge is figuring out what type of exercise – and to what extent – is needed to improve mental health. And these are not normal times, she said.

<< In this particular case, the onset of the pandemic and all the changes that came with it were a significant change in the lives of the participants, “stressed Bufka.” The participants had to adapt to a lot of life changes at the same time, so it would be really surprising to think that increased depression is simply the result of decreased activity. “

So, however long the pandemic lasts, she advised maintaining mental health by focusing on “general well-being.”

“In general, staying engaged is essential,” whether in terms of physical activity, social connection or intellectual challenges, said Bufka. “You have reasons to get up and start the day, even if it seems a little contrived at first to think of ‘planning’ activities.”

Also, try to view current events as a challenge rather than a threat. “If it’s difficult, find a trusted friend or family member who is supportive and helps you look at situations from different angles,” Bufka suggested.

More information

There is more on exercise and mental health at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

SOURCES: Silvia Saccardo, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh; Lynn Bufka, PhD, Senior Director, Practice Transformation and Quality, American Psychological Association; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2, 2021

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