Newswise — AMES, Iowa – As people adhered to stay-at-home orders or self-isolated during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak, daily commutes turned into shuffles between the bedroom and the living room. Clicking Zoom links reduced the time it took to walk to meetings rooms and made Netflix a more important part of our daily lives.
People became more sedentary after the pandemic. Recently published research found that people who sat longer between April and June 2020 had higher levels of depression symptoms. This association may be a factor in improving mental health. Jacob Meyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology from Iowa State University and the lead author of this paper, said
“Sitting can be a sneaky habit. It’s something that we do every day without even realizing .”
Meyer and his team examine how physical activity and sedentary behavior are linked to mental health and how these affect how people feel, think and perceive the world.
” In March 2020,, Meyer stated that COVID would have an impact on our behavior. He also explained that there were many unexpected and fun ways we could act in a way we didn’t anticipate.
To get a snapshot of those changes, Meyer and a team of researchers received survey responses from more than 3,000 study participants from all 50 states and the District of Colombia. Participants were asked to report how much time they spent exercising, sitting down, or looking at screens. They also reported changes in their mental well-being using standard clinical scales (e.g., depressive, anxious, feeling stressed, lonely, etc.).
” We know that changes in screen time and physical activity are related to mental health, but this is the first time we’ve seen large populations respond to sudden changes in their behavior,” Meyer stated.
Survey data revealed that participants were following the U.S. guidelines. Physical Activity Guidelines (i.e., 2.5-5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week) before the pandemic decreased their physical activity by 32%, on average, shortly after COVID-19-related restrictions went into effect. These same participants felt more depressed and anxious, as well as lonely. Meyer and his co-researchers published their findings last year in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Meyer’s latest paper in Frontiers in Psychiatry was used as a follow-up to determine if participants’ mental health and behaviors had changed over time. The survey was repeated each week from April to June by the participants.
” Meyer stated that the second study found that people’s mental health improved over an eight-week period. People adjusted to the pandemic. However, people who sat longer periods of time didn’t experience the same recovery as others .”
. Participants who sat for long periods of time experienced a decrease in mental health.
Meyer stressed that there is no “association” between sitting time and depression. It’s possible that those who are more depressed sit more, or that people who sit more become more depressed. It could be that there was another factor, which the researchers didn’t identify.
” It’s definitely worth more investigation,” Meyer stated. Meyer also indicated that the monthly survey data for June 2020 through June 2021 will soon be made public. As we look at the other side of pandemics .”
Meyer said that it is difficult to stop a bad habit and start one again. He hopes that more people will realize that even a small amount of movement can make a big difference in their moods and mental health and find ways to incorporate it into their daily lives.
Meyer suggested that people take breaks from sitting for prolonged periods.
” Even if you aren’t walking down the hall to attend in-person meetings with people, Meyer suggested that you still take a break from sitting and walk around before and after your Zoom calls.
People who work from home should walk around the block before and during the day to relive their pre-pandemic commute. Meyer stated that this can help people mentally and physically, as well as add structure and structure to their days.
This research was conducted by researchers at Trinity College Dublin (University of Dublin) and University of Limerick (University of Limerick).
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