"When the mind, body and spirit work as one,

anything is possible"

Chris Angel

Image by Tristan Gevaux

Exercise and Mental Health: During Quarantine

Hello there people!

In my last posts, I was talking about the 4 pillars that can help you to stay healthy mentally and physically: Good food, meditation, sleep and exercise. You can read more on sleep tips here and meditation tips here.

So, today I am discussing the third aspect which we forget to do or we are just lazy to do.

YES! It's Exercise!

I am generally an active person and during the quarantine also I was working out. But, suddenly it hit me, "I do not move around much these days". So I checked my health app ( Thanks to technology I say!). Before the quarantine started, my average footsteps for the last 4 months (November- March) was 4113 (not including the workout part). During the quarantine, my average footsteps (March to July) have reduced to 945. That is 77.02% decrease 😳

This was an alert call for myself and I wanted to share how important it is to do exercise during this period. I think most of you know how important exercise is for your physical body. During the social-distancing, Fitbit studied the physical activity of almost all of the countries and found a statistically significant decline in average step count compared to the same time last year.

The decline in steps is different in each country, European countries show a drastic change, ranging from a 7% to 38% decline in step counts during the week ending March 22, 2020. Same time, the United States has a 12% decline in step count and China has a drop of 16%.

But does exercise and physical movement have only physical benefits? Doctors from all over the globe confirm the benefits of exercise on mental health. American Psychological Association has listed out the positive effect of exercise on mental health with scientific evidence. Slowly a shift is happening from the recognition of physical benefits to the mental benefits of exercise, especially during the time of COVID-19.

So, what is the exercise- mental health connection?

1. Depression and mood enhancement

Studies show that exercise can enhance your mood and give you a positive mind. Scientists have also found that mild-moderate depression can have the same benefits from exercise as from psychopharmaceutical medicines. You might think that signs of depression are not just having normal mood swings. Yes, you are correct. Exercise can increase the production of serotonin, also called the happy chemical, which is the main reason for depression. According to APA, there are suggestions that inactive people are more depressed than the active group.

2. Anxiety and Stress Reduction

Exercise reduces cortisol and other stress hormones that are produced during a stressful situation that can

induce anxiety. Production of endorphins (the feel-good hormone) is enhanced by exercise and that can help in the treatment of anxiety disorder and also stress reduction. During a workout or any other form of exercise, the body shows symptoms like increased heartbeat rate, sweating, dryness of throat etc., these symptoms are also produced during a panic attack or during increased anxiety. A person who does workout often gets used to these symptoms and when a real stressful situation comes, the brain automatically adapts to it and helps to stay calm.

3. Other mental illnesses Schizophrenia, ADHD, PTSD, trauma

People suffering from other mental illnesses like Schizophrenia, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder etc. can also feel better by exercise. But the amount of exercise which is needed for people with mental disorders should be consulted with a specialist.

4. Self-esteem

There are psychological benefits for exercise and movement. Regular exercise can bring real physical changes in your body and each time when you hit the weighing machine you feel better about yourself. This helps you to boost your self-esteem and self- confidence. After each exercise session, it gives a feeling of achievement and you will even have a positive self-image of yourself. Exercise is like a drug, the more you do the more you feel good!

5. Increased brainpower: memory, concentration, energy, resIlience

There are major advantages received by the brain by exercise. It helps in the improvement of cognitive abilities like memory, concentration and thinking. Brain energy also boosts and helps in doing everything faster with more accuracy. It is exactly like how your phone after charging. Brain not only gets energised but also gets stronger and attains resilience against stress, pressure and cell-deterioration as NPY ( a neuropeptide- small protein-like molecule used by brain cells) is produced more.

6. Better sleep

Exercise can help in good sleep thus getting the added benefits of sleep. Read on the benefits of sleep here.

Quality sleep can improve performance and energy which is needed for exercise. So both are bidirectionally connected. Home workout and fitness is inevitable now because of the lockdown.

"Exercise may be a way of biologically toughening up the brain so stress has less of a central impact"
--- Michael Otto 🍁

So how much exercise is needed for a healthy life?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for reaping the benefits of the exercise we should work our way up to minimum 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week). It can be done continuously for 30 minutes a day or divide into 2 parts or even three parts of 10 minutes of exercise. As many physical trainers suggest, the best is 3 days of cardio exercise (aerobic exercise) and 2 days of strengthening exercises. But everyone is different, the workout requirement and intensity may vary.

Will 10000 steps per day help?

There is no scientific evidence on that but 10000 steps per day generally keep your body active and that

can help you to stay fit. Some studies even show 7,500 steps per day is also adequate. Keeping track of your steps through apps and other devices will help you to stay focussed and on track. But while walking tries to practice a brisk walk which can favour more weight loss. During the lockdown, as Fitbit studies claim, there is a huge decrease in physical movement, mainly because we are inside our houses and working from home. So, what can be some exercises at home and ways to keep us motivated? Read in the next blog clicking the below link.

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