Outdoor Activity Eases Depression During COVID-19 Lockdowns

Outdoor Activity Eases Depression During COVID-19 Lockdowns

Endless restrictions and lockdowns amidst the pandemic have had a detrimental impact on people’s mental health all over the world. A new study confirms that remaining physically active and spending time outdoors helps mitigate this impact and lower depression and anxiety levels.

The research included predominantly retired participants who were asked to share details on their lifestyle, their electronic health records, and give biospecimens. Participants who were active and spent time outdoors reported milder anxiety and depression symptoms, in contrast to those who were constantly at home and inactive. The study also showed that anxiety and depression scores were higher in women and lower in Asian and Black participants.

The research team did expect that exercising and spending time outdoors would have positive health implications. However, there were some unexpected discrepancies, such as that anxiety and depression levels were higher with both increased and decreased outdoor time. The authors believe these findings are unclear because they have no information on the participants’ lifestyle habits before the pandemic.

The research also confirmed earlier findings that women tend to have more severe mental health issues than men and that older adults suffer less from anxiety and depression than younger ones as they are more experienced in handling stressful situations.

As much of this research involved conjecture due to mixed findings, another surprising result for the authors was the racial implications, particularly that Asian Americans were less depressed and anxious than White participants. In contrast, White participants reported better mental well-being than Black Americans. The researchers consider the latter to be inconsistent with the general population, especially since Black people comprised only 2.3% of the participant sample.

These findings suggest that further pandemic mitigation strategies require a change of approach, taking into account the people’s mental well-being. This involves fewer restrictions on time spent outdoors and physical activity.

Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

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