As the world copes with the social isolation and fear created by the COVID-19 pandemic, depression and anxiety are on the rise. A new study suggests we may feel better if we are more physically fit. An analysis of data from over 150,000 participants found that better cardiorespiratory health and stronger grip strength at baseline were both associated with lower risk for depression and/or anxiety during seven years of follow-up.
Cardiorespiratory health can be improved by increasing aerobic activity, like walking, jogging, biking, rigorous housework, or dancing to your favorite tunes in your living room. Muscle strength can be increased by resistance activities—which include lifting weights (or water jugs or canned goods), but also working against one’s own body weight, as with pushups, planks, and squats. If you are generally inactive or have physical limitations, online yoga or tai chi classes for beginners are a good place to start. Whatever your activity level, finding a way to step it up a notch is good for your health—both physical and mental. (Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new physical activity program, and never hesitate to seek help if you think you may be suffering with depression or anxiety.)