As we continue living with the pandemic and head into the colder months of fall and winter, it’s more important than ever to stay active for our health and wellbeing. That’s because there is strong evidence that shows physical activity reduces the risk of many diseases and even depression. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated several years ago that depression and stress-related illness would become the greatest source of ill health worldwide beginning this year–2020. That was long before anyone could have predicted a world-wide pandemic. Moreover, the WHO recognizes there is a link between mental health and physical health. For example, cardiovascular disease can lead to depression and vice versa. According to numerous studies, regular physical activity may be as effective as medication to reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting.
Today, psychiatrists and behavioral scientists recognize just how high the stakes are for not only those with chronic depression—but for all humans. A recent study by the Journal of American Medical Association showed that the prevalence of depression symptoms in US is 3-fold higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than before. This suggests that many of us are susceptible to feelings of malaise and low motivation for our general health and physical movement.
Those in the medical world recognize that lack of interest for self-care and exercise are a normal response to what’s happening during the pandemic. Many doctors recognize exercise as the number one best thing we can do for coping with pandemic fatigue. So, don’t let burnout get the best of you. There are things you can do to manage and improve your mental and physical wellbeing.
• Look for opportunities to be more active. For example, walk to do your errands, or park several blocks away to get those extra steps in.
• Make fitness the first thought of your day. Lay out your workout clothes the night before so that you can roll out of bed, lace up your sneakers and head out the door.
• Take exercise breaks throughout the day. Even ten minute chunks can make a big difference in your mental and physical health. Take breaks from the computer to walk around the block, knock out a set of pushups and squats, hit the steps, or jump a rope.
• Take time to be in nature. Sure, it’s cold outside, but just spending some time breathing fresh air, feeling the sun on your face, and listening to the natural sounds can do wonders for your mood.
Small steps can lead to big changes in your health and well-being. Simply just being aware of small opportunities is a good start toward coping with pandemic fatigue and feeling good.