Are You Stressed Out? Then You Need to Exercise

Exploring Intensity

Are You Stressed Out? Then You Need to Exercise

Right now plenty of us are anxious, getting stir crazy and wracked with the uncertainty of the future. In some ways it feels like the best thing to do would be to stock up on beer.

But, according to a study that showed up in the nick of time, exercise is what will make you happier.

Multiple institutions, including Columbia University Medical Center in NYC, looked at how exercise affects people in their 20s-40s who don’t move around much but are relatively healthy. So they found 119 people who you’d consider sedentary (which is like way too many of us right now) and asked them a ton of questions about their mental health. Pretty much just seeing how mad, sad, happy and anxious they are.

Then they split them into a control group who did nothing different and the an active group who exercised four times a week while being supervised. Here is what that looked like, according to this article:

Their exercise program was a standard moderate aerobic routine. They walked or jogged on treadmills or rode a stationary bicycle for about 35 minutes at a pace that left them somewhat breathless. (Technically, the effort raised their heart rates to about 70 percent to 80 percent of each person’s maximum.)

The experiment went on for three months and then the subjects answered the questions again. Then, the exercisers stopped their regimen (they were forced to stop exercising completely) and showed up a month later to once again fill out the questionnaires.

Everyone from both groups were considered to be fairly mentally healthy, but the results for those who did physical activity showed a marked improvement. Again from the article.

After three months of working out, their overall scores on the depression scale fell by about 35 percent, a significant difference from the control group, whose depression scores had barely budged. Hostility levels in the exercise group also plummeted. Declines in anxiety and anger were slighter, but the researchers think their volunteers began with such low levels of those feelings, they realistically could not fall much further.

And this wasn’t just during the immediate aftermath. While the positive scores began to erode after a month they were still significantly better than the control group.

The mood improvements also lingered. Even after a month of inactivity, the former exercisers showed healthier scores for depression and hostility than the control group, although their numbers were starting to return to where they had been at the start.

Now, we don’t know where your own mental health is nowadays, but considering that these current feelings have the potential to stick around as this situation continues, prioritizing exercise may be the best way to take some control back and make the best of the situation today and when we are finally heading back towards normal.

-Shane M.