“Call it the ‘45-minute rule.’”
Inc. summarized the findings of a recent Mental Health America study thusly. It’s no surprise that mental health issues have been climbing during the COVID-19 pandemic — the U.S. Census Bureau finds that one-third of Americans exhibit signs of clinical anxiety or depression.
Fortunately, there may be a solution. Researchers studied 66 college students (none of whom were diagnosed with COVID-19) in China at the height of the outbreak and found that negative emotions were less apparent in those who engaged in 45 minutes of “vigorous physical activity” every day. Those who engaged in 80 minutes of moderate activity or 108 minutes of “light” activity each day exhibited similar effects.
This is likely welcome news to people who have been feeling down during a period of social isolation — which could be one of the main causes of these negative emotions. So, how can you work 45 minutes of vigorous exercise into your day and improve your outlook?
With many people still working remotely, commute time is non-existent or substantially reduced. Perhaps you’ve been using that extra time in your day to sleep in, but why not replace it with a period of high-intensity exercise instead?
If vigorous exercise sounds intimidating, you could always aim for achieving those 108 minutes of light exercise. Start off your morning with a walk — and maybe head to the farther coffee shop to fit in a few extra minutes — and take advantage of your lunch break, time between meetings, and other lulls to squeeze in 10 or so quick minutes of walking. It’ll add up!
Like to wind down by watching TV or reading a book? Why not exercise at the same time? With a stationary bike, you can easily do both activities simultaneously. Or, listen to your favorite podcast while jogging. That way, you’ll have some entertainment while you’re boosting your energy — and your mental health.
Because isolation could be contributing to your negative emotions, incorporating a social element into your exercise plan could help motivate you. If you’re able to exercise with a friend at a social distance, do it! Otherwise, even securing an accountability buddy — someone to keep you on track and vice versa — will push you to find the time to fit it in your day.
Exercise is a big step in helping you get through a difficult period and can boost your mood at any point. The study authors caution that more exercise is necessary now to “offset the psychological burden and negative emotions caused by the disease outbreak and social distancing.”
In addition to exercise, try to maintain your relationships, even if they’re at a physical distance, and engage in other feel-good activities. Don’t forget about mindfulness meditation and relaxing hobbies like reading and cooking — or whatever is your cup of tea!
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