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Too Much Exercise During Lockdown Is Making People Unhappy

Many people are already bored from being cooped up inside, but the first study looking at health effects of coronavirus lockdowns has warned too much exercise could make you unhappy.

People with existing health conditions and those who have stopped working due to the COVID-19 outbreak are more at risk of worsening mental and physical health during an extended lockdown period, the study found.

Researchers from Australia and China have examined the health impacts on hundreds of adults who were forced into one-month lockdown period in February as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Lockdown is leading to mental and physical health effects. Image: Getty

With countries like Australia only recently going into lockdown-like conditions, and movement and social interaction restricted, researchers said the study could "somewhat of a ‘crystal ball’ into the mental health of Australian residents once they have been in the lockdown for one month.”

A total of 369 adults living across 64 Chinese cities were involved in the research. It included people who had stopped working, worked from home or continued working from the office during mandatory lockdowns.

The study, published in Psychiatry Research, found adults who lived in locations more affected by the virus outbreak suffered from distress as well as lower physical and mental health during confinement.

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However, the study also found participants in locations more affected by COVID-19 only reported negative life satisfaction if they had existing chronic medical issues.

Study co-author Professor Andreas Rauch, from the University of Sydney, said it was not surprising that people who stopped work during the lockdown reported distress, and had worse mental and physical health.

"Work can provide people with a sense of purpose and routine, which is particularly important during this global pandemic," Rauch said.

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Interestingly, while regularly exercising is considered to boost mental health, the study found excessive exercise could result in lower happiness.

According to the researchers, participants who exercised more than 2.5 hours per day reported worse life satisfaction in areas that were more affected by COVID-19.

Meanwhile, participants who exercised for 30 minutes or less reported higher life satisfaction.

Image: Getty

Study lead Dr Stephen Zhang, from the University of Adelaide, said this was a surprise to researchers. He theorised that people who are used to a lot of physical activity are more likely to feel frustrated by lockdown restrictions.

"It appears to be counter-intuitive," Zhang said.

"It’s possible adults who exercised less could better justify or rationalise their inactive lifestyles in more severely affected cities."

"These early findings suggest we need to pay attention to more physically active individuals, who might be more frustrated by the restrictions.”

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While Zhang said more research was needed into these areas, he believes these preliminary results could offer a "crystal ball" into the mental health of Australians after a month in lockdown.