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Pandemic Exercise & Mental Health

Post-Lockdown there has been a lot of discussion online around the aspects of our life that have slipped away from our control.  A lot of people feel like they have lost their motivation to do anything. We’ve watched our screen time on our phones jump up per day, replacing the productive time we had pre-lockdown. It has even become very popular over the last few months to talk about out “Quarantine 15” with people putting on an average of 15lbs during this period of time. Despite all this however, a lot of studies recently have pointed to the benefits regular physical exercise can have on all these aspects of our lives.


Across the board we can see a disparity in the mental health of those who engaged in regular physical exercise during lockdown and those who did not. A study by Colley, Bushnik and Langlois (2020) found that among women, 54% of those who exercised everyday claimed they had a very positive mental health level versus only 41% of women who did not. This gap is also seen in men with a 69% vs 62% gap in that subgroup. With these stats it is very hard to deny the role that exercise played in the mental wellbeing of a lot of people during the last few months.

Usher, Durkin and Bhullar (2020) published a paper recently highlighting the impact this pandemic has had on the mental health of many people worldwide. In this paper they discuss people suffering with depression and anxiety disorders. They argue that the severity of these disorders has gone skywards, with people who say they on average suffer 2 depressive episodes a year now claiming they have had 3 or 4 over the last 3 months. One common narrative that emerges in this study however is that when people begin to look after their physical wellbeing post-lockdown, their mental state drastically improves in tandem. This leads to a vast increase in people joining running clubs, even to the point where clubs are emerging with a focus on running for mental health.

Linking into this, Jiménez-Pavon et al. (2020) has pointed out how a lot of people have struggled with attending therapy this year and so have turned more to alternative forms of therapy to improve their mental wellbeing. By far, the most popular alternative therapy this year has been exercise. Many people claiming that without their daily run, walk or workout, they feel they would have struggled a lot more mentally than they had done.

In Conclusion:

It is very clear to see the increased importance exercise has played this year for countless people. If this area is something you are interested in, we are currently offering a Level 2 course in Mental Health Awareness as well as our Level 4 in Physical Activity and Wellbeing For Adults With Mental Health Conditions. We feel that both of these courses are very beneficial in the next few years as the role of physical activity in mental health is becoming more linked than ever before.



Team PTI



Colley, R.C., Bushnik, T. and Langlois, K., (2020). Exercise and screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Reports, 31(6), pp.1-11.

Jiménez-Pavón, D., Carbonell-Baeza, A. and Lavie, C.J., (2020). Physical exercise as therapy to fight against the mental and physical consequences of COVID-19 quarantine: Special focus in older people. Progress in cardiovascular diseases.

Usher, K., Durkin, J. and Bhullar, N., (2020). The COVID‐19 pandemic and mental health impacts. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 29(3), p.315.