Those who engaged in physical activity were exposed to a lower risk of depression, anxiety and stress, according to a study of 5,000 people from Brazil, Chile and Spain
Studies have already shown that the social isolation used to combat covid-19 was an aggravating factor for mental health problems. But what scientists now say is that the lack of physical activity caused by incarceration increased fear, panic, anxiety and depression. One study with almost 5 thousand people, conducted simultaneously in Brazil, Chile and Spain, confirms this relationship between regular physical exercise and mental health.
The aim of the research, says Professor Átila Alexandre Trapé from the Ribeirão Preto School of Physical Education and Sports (EEFERP) at USP, was to check the characteristics of physical exercises practiced and the risk of mental health problems during social isolation. As a result, researchers found an increased tendency for mental disorders the lower the levels of physical activity. The information is in the article The influence of physical activity on the mental states of adults during the covid-19 pandemicpublished in the journal Medicina (Ribeirão Preto).
To reach 4,948 affected people in three Ibero-American countries, a “snowball sampling technique” was used, in which the participant invites their friends and family to also answer an online questionnaire. ANDBetween March and August 2020, in Brazil alone, 3,386 forms with sociodemographic, mental and general health data, along with physical exercise, were analyzed.
A higher risk of depression, anxiety and stress was observed in Brazilian participants, women, young people and those who stayed at home more than 19 hours a day. A low level of physical activity is associated with a higher likelihood of depression compared to the highest level (moderate and high).
In addition, another fact that attracted attention, the professor points out, is the use of experts for exercises. “People who were able to continue their physical activity in a way that was guided or supervised by a physical education specialist had a protective effect and a lower risk of depression, anxiety and stress.”
From research project to social extension
In response to the findings, the team coordinated by Professor Trapé designed a project to study the benefits of physical exercise in the recovery of patients after covid. A health worker from Ribeirão Preto, Regina Martins Bernardes, was a volunteer, participating in the practical activities of the project, and says that she was a fan of walking, but that, with the isolation and mainly after a long illness, she became very depressed and stopped exercising. The situation changed when he discovered the USP activity program. “In the beginning, it was very difficult,” says Regina, adding that, little by little, she felt better with each exercise and that she no longer intends to stop practicing.
The project, which started in September 2020 as a research project, has turned into a social extension and now serves the entire community, not just post-covid patients.
Physical activity in the periphery
For the sake of well-being, the professor defends the creation of public policies to encourage physical activity of the population, considering the promotion of health in a wider context. Thus, encouraging people to take care of their own health and, later, in interaction with the environment, contact with others, opening access possibilities. And here the professor draws attention to the changes in the built environment that must also take place in the periphery, where there are greater difficulties in access and opportunities.
These are changes that need to happen in the context of equality, offering more to those who need it most to be able to access online activities in the context of the pandemic. Consider opportunities for everyone to engage in physical activity, since a large part of the population cannot choose to be active due to daily activities. According to him, public policies could come up with a solution for these people, so that they could “incorporate something related to physical activity into their routine, especially in their free time.”
Speaking about free time, Trapé notes that physical activity should not be understood as overloading with daily tasks, but as leisure, doing what one loves. And, also, that these activities must be carried out with the possibilities that are available. The importance of physical exercise for well-being is not in question, says the teacher, noting that it is also important to check how it fits into the routine, the time, where the exerciser is.
Exercise for health: a habit
“Physical activity promotes many health benefits and can be explored in different ways, according to everyone’s capabilities,” emphasizes Trapé, pointing to the habit of exercising to preserve health, either through the organic effects of biological action. , releasing endorphins (a hormone of pleasure and well-being), either by bringing “opportunities to interact with the environment, with other people, which can be very good for those who face mental health problems”, concludes Prof.
Authors: Rubens Avelar and Rita Stella
Listen to the interview with the researcher in the player below: