September 2, 2022

Effect of COVID-19 on mental health of physically active adults

By: Judy Mathias

Editor's Note

In this study, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology find that the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with worse mental health for physically active adults.

A total of 855 physically active adults (32.6% women) completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale at two time points (ie, June 2020 and January 2021) and reported change in physical activity in the first 3 months of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The researchers found that those who:

  • increased their physical activity early in the shutdown had the greatest increase in anxiety and depression 6 months later
  • increased their amount of physical activity 6 months into the pandemic deteriorated more mentally than those who didn’t start exercising more
  • reduced the amount of exercise at the beginning of the pandemic had the highest level of anxiety and depression overall.

Though physically active people generally have better mental health than inactive people, the findings of this study show that the pandemic was associated with worse mental health for those who increased as well as those who decreased their physical activity, the researchers say.

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