While exercising has proven to minimize the effect of anxiety and stress, it might not be enough for the levels caused by the novel coronavirus, according to a new study. In a study of twins led by Washington State University researchers, people who reported increasing their physical activity after the start of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those whose activity levels stayed the same. In the study, published recently in the publication PLOS ONE, researchers analyzed data from over 900 pairs of identical and same-sex fraternal twins from the Washington State Twin Registry. Those who reported a decrease in physical activity inside two-weeks after the start of stay-at-home orders had a perceived higher level of stress and anxiety, which used to be expected. But surprisingly, lots of the respondents who increased their physical activity felt the same way.
“Certainly, people who don’t exercise realize that there are associations with mental health outcomes, yet the ones that increased their exercise also reported increased anxiety and stress,” said lead writer Glen Duncan, a professor in WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “It’s tough to realize precisely what’s going on, but it could be that they’re trying to use exercise as a means to counter that stress and anxiety they’re feeling as a result of COVID.” The twin survey used to be conducted from March 26 to April 5, 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. Washington State and plenty of other states issued their first stay at home orders close the end of March in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Participants were asked approximately changes in their physical activity in comparison to one month prior to now. Of the survey respondents, 42 per cent reported decreasing levels of physical activity since the COVID crisis began, and 27 per cent said they had increased their activities. Another 31 per cent reported no change.Conducting the study with twins allowed the researchers to take a look at if the associations between changes in physical activity and mental health were mediated by genetic or shared environmental factors or both. Identical twins share all of their genes; fraternal twins share about half of their genes, and twins raised in the same circle of relatives share many formative experiences. In this study, the researchers found that the organization between decreased physical activity and stress used to be confounded by genetic and environmental factors. The twin pairs who differed in their perceived change in physical activity–when one twin reported decreased activity while the other remained the same–did not vary in their perceived stress levels.
“It’s not necessarily that exercise won’t allow you to personally manage stress,” said Duncan. “It’s just that there’s something genetically and environmentally linking the two.” The researchers found some organization between decreased physical activity and anxiety: inside a twosome of twins, the sibling with decreased physical activity had higher levels of anxiety than the sibling who reported no change. Moreover, anxiety levels were higher among older people and women.
Duncan and his colleagues plan to survey this population again to see whether the relationships between physical activity and these mental health issues persist or change. “A minimum of in the short term, it kind of feels there isn’t a large number of have an effect on from either decreasing or increasing physical activity with regards to handling stress and anxiety, but that might be different after two or three months under COVID restrictions,” Duncan said.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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