Here we go again…another round of lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. As most of us already discovered last time, lockdown life presents some unique challenges. Staring at the same walls and people for days on end gets to us eventually.
Thankfully, there are things we can do to keep up our spirits and bolster our mental health through this difficult time. One of the best ones is to stay active. Of course, going to the gym, taking a fitness class, and many of the other heart-pumping activities we enjoy are off the table right now.
However, that doesn’t negate the importance of exercise for boosting our mental health.
Exercise and Mental Health
Everybody already knows that staying active is great for keeping off extra weight, but the benefits of exercise go far beyond staying trim.
Physical activity boosts mental health in a number of ways. Increased blood circulation to the brain, the release of endorphins (the so-called happy chemicals), and the physiologic effect of exercise on several key areas of the brain work together to lift our mood. The effect is so strong that it can help alleviate depression and anxiety.
From here the effect of exercise on mental health blossoms out to other aspects of our health. Exercise leads to:
- Improved sleep
- More energy
- Less fatigue, more focus
- Improved mood
- Less stress
- Weight loss
- Better self-esteem
- Strengthens the immune system (super important right now)
As you might imagine, these benefits build on one another. For example, if you are getting better sleep, obviously you‘ll feel less tired and find it easier to focus throughout your day. And so on.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
Thankfully, you don’t have to spend hours working out to get enjoy the health boost of staying fit. All you need is 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise (brisk walking or equivalent) at least 3 times a week.
What’s more, the exercise doesn’t even have to be continuous. You can break up your 30 minutes into three 10-minute walks throughout the day. Suddenly, getting enough exercise doesn’t seem that difficult anymore.
Exercising During Quarantine
Unfortunately, we’re still presented with one last problem. How do we get exercise when we’re stuck inside all the time? Time to start getting creative.
Finding the motivation to work out by yourself can be one of the most difficult aspects. Find ways to connect. If you live with your family, make exercise a fun family event. Have a dance party in the living room, go for a bike ride, or take a virtual class together. All types of exercise programs are being offered virtually right now from pilates and yoga to Zumba, if you are looking for some inspiration the InspireAll App has a wide variety of OnDemand classes available. Find something that motivates everyone and enjoy it together.
And remember, for those who have to-do lists a mile long, exercise doesn’t always have to happen in a planned routine. Chores that require some heavy lifting or physical activity also count, so you can mark a few things off your to-do list at the same time — boosting your mood even more as you feel more productive.
We’ll get through this together!