Keeping our spirits up has proven to be a little more difficult in recent months. And with the number of COVID-19 cases rising again in multiple states, we’re all still doing our best to stay safe. Despite our recent struggles, researchers say getting (or staying) physically active is a way to ensure that we keep our moods light and our sleep patterns healthy during hard times.
According to a new study out of Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), being physically active could make a major difference in our sleep and mental health — especially amid the pandemic.
The team conducted a survey among members of Kondis, a Norwegian fitness training organization. They aimed to determine if physically active individuals faired better with sleep and mental health than their inactive counterparts. For the study, subjects were asked to complete an online questionnaire which included questions about depression and anxiety, sleep disturbances, and changes in physical activity habits during the lockdown from March 12 to June 15. They compared these results to those from questionaries administered among the general population, which were part of another study.
Results indicated that those who were physically active felt less anxious and depressed, and experienced less trouble sleeping. “Not surprisingly, we found that the incidence of anxiety and depression was significantly lower in this relatively fit sample than among other people,” says associate professor Linda Ernstsen from NTNU’s Department of Public Health and Nursing. “And this was the case despite the fact that we conducted the survey in the middle of the toughest part of the COVID time.”
These results may seem unsurprising, but the researchers also found that many Norwegians actually upped their levels of physical activity during the pandemic, leading to less symptoms of poor mental health and sleep problems. “It was surprising that so many people increased their amount of exercise during the coronavirus pandemic. Since people were encouraged to avoid public spaces and stay home, the fact that so many used the extra time they had to move more was a positive effect,” Havnen said.
How much physical activity do you need?
The researchers for this study assessed physical activity based on guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO). That means that those who were considered to be physically active got at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. That’s only 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of moderate exercise!
Luckily, getting in 30 minutes of exercise per week is super easy. Try taking a brisk walk (while the weather is still nice!) with a partner or friend! If you’re looking to get the blood pumping a little more, you can also check out this routine from fitness expert Denise Austin!
Here’s to better sleep and a happier mood!