According to a new study by Kaiser Permanente published in Preventive Medicine , people who exercised more during the initial lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced less anxiety and depression than those who did not exercise .
The study also suggests that people who spent more time outdoors generally experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression than those who stayed indoors.
Exercising outdoors in the United States
More than 20,000 people participated in the study based on surveys of 6 regions served by Kaiser Permanente in the United States, which included Hawaii, Colorado, Georgia, and the mid-Atlantic states, as well as southern and northern California.
As explained by the study’s lead author, Deborah Rohm Young , director of the Behavioral Research Division in the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation:
What these study findings tell us is that even during an active pandemic or other public health crisis, people should be encouraged to engage in physical activity to help maintain their physical and mental health. Parks and other natural areas should remain open during public health emergencies to encourage outdoor physical activity.
The study found that:
- Reports of anxiety and depression decreased over time.
- Anxiety and depression scores were higher for women and younger people, and lower for Asians and blacks compared to white respondents.
- Participants who did not report physical activity reported the most depression and anxiety compared to people who had exercised.
- Spending less time outdoors was associated with higher depression and anxiety scores
- People who had increased their time outdoors reported higher anxiety scores, but the research couldn’t explain the finding.