Burden of Pandemic Has Made Mental Health a Barrier to Physical Activity

Isolation at home during coronavirus covid-19 pandemic. Woman looking at window. Sad girl stays safe at home on quarantineMental health has become the focus of many reports during the coronavirus pandemic. New research from McMaster University suggests that the pandemic has created an unusual situation where mental health has impacted physical activity. It has created a situation for many people, either being a motivator or a barrier to physical activity.

Most people want to be physically active during the pandemic, but they find it difficult due to stress and anxiety. More than 1,600 subjects were surveyed in an effort to understand how mental health, physical health, and sedentary behavior have changed throughout the course of the pandemic.


The results outlined in the journal PLOS ONE found that participants reported higher psychological stress and moderate levels of anxiety and depression, which were triggered by the pandemic. Physical activity was also down about 20 minutes per week, and strength training down approximately 30 minutes per week. Sedentary time was up 30 minutes per day compared to six months prior to the pandemic.

Those who reported the most significant declines in physical activity also had the worst mental health outcomes
Participants who were able to maintain their physical activity levels were doing much better mentally.

Economic situations also played a role, particularly among younger adults.

“Just like other aspects of the pandemic, some demographics are hit harder than others, and here it is people with lower income who are struggling to meet their physical activity goals,” says Maryam Marashi, co-lead author of the study. “It is plausible that younger adults who typically work longer hours and earn less are lacking both time and space, which is taking a toll.”

Physical Activity Toolkit


As part of the study’s conclusion, researchers designed an evidence-based toolkit to help those struggling with mental health and physical activity. It included the following steps:

  • Adopt a mindset: Some exercise is better than none.
  • Lower exercise intensity if feeling anxious.
  • Move a little every day.
  • Break up sedentary time with standing or movement breaks.
  • Plan your workouts like appointments by blocking off the time in your calendar.

During the pandemic, it has become evident that there is a need for psychological support systems to help people maintain their physical activity levels. This is especially needed in stressful times to help prevent the development of a mental health crisis.

By ensuring proper physical activity, mental health can be affected positively. If you are struggling with finding the time or the motivation to keep up with daily exercise, try using the toolkit to keep yourself on schedule. Maintaining positive mental health is one of the most important ways to being able to handle the lockdowns imposed by the pandemic.

Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.