A recent online survey of the levels of exercise and mental health status among 1,669 subjects in Canada during the pandemic shows a relationship between declines in physical activity and mental health outcomes.

McMaster University researchers in Hamilton, Ontario, conducted the study to determine what it is about the pandemic that’s been making people less active and causing shifts in people’s motivators and perceived barriers to being physically active.

Data analysis showed a link between exercise and mental health: Respondents who experienced the most deterioration in mental health were the least active. Paradoxically, these people benefited the most from more physical activity. Consider offering the following suggestions to help your clients become more active again:

  • Schedule activities (to eliminate decision-making and choice).
  • Do activities you personally enjoy.
  • Listen to favorite music.
  • Train with a friend.
  • Try lower-intensity activities.
  • Get creative; use body weight or whatever is available.
  • Go outside and be in nature.

“Even though exercise comes with the promise of reducing anxiety, many respondents felt too anxious to exercise,” said principal investigator and study author Jennifer Heisz, PhD. “Likewise, although exercise reduces depression, respondents who were more depressed were less motivated to get active, and lack of motivation is a symptom of depression.”

The research was published in PLOS ONE (2021; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0239244).

See also: Sell Mental Health and Wellness, Not Exercise

Question of the Month

What efforts or initiatives are you making to bring people back into the gym and fitness studio? For example, are you offering pricing incentives or bonuses or holding special events? Tell us about your experiences in getting people back into facilities and what methods you are finding to be most successful for you.

We want to hear from you! Email executive editor Joy Keller, [email protected].