If you've ever gone through a rough patch and solved it by hitting the gym, you're far from alone. One of the most common bits of advice for dealing with gnarly mental health is to seek exercise. Yoga, weight-lifting, rock-climbing, biking, running — all of it is supposed to lift your mood and help you out of your funk, thanks to all the good brain chemicals moving your body produces. There's just one big problem with that, though: You still have to get started.
This isn't always a question of motivation, willpower, or desire. Kinesiologists at Canada's McMaster University have just released a study looking into how mental health can stymie our desires for physical health. "Even though exercise comes with the promise of reducing anxiety, many respondents felt too anxious to exercise," said lead author Jennifer Heisz. "Likewise, although exercise reduces depression, respondents who were more depressed were less motivated to get active, and lack of motivation is a symptom of depression."
In other words, if your mental health is making exercise too overwhelming, even if you know exercise would help, you aren't a failure and you're far from alone. Articles like Sarah Kurchak's "Depression-Busting Exercise Tips for People Too Depressed to Exercise" are a great reminder to be gentle with yourself, and to celebrate any accomplishments — something is always better than nothing. A recent study from Swiss researchers emphasizes the importance of variety in your exercise regimens, so if one routine isn't working for you, keep mixing it up, no matter how small your practice is.
We're all basket cases after more than a year of COVID-19, but we've got ways through and out of this.