Getting outdoors and staying healthy is important even during a pandemic, and a team of researchers are hoping to gather data about how the two may correlate. (Goldstream News Gazette)

Researchers at UFV looking into effects of pandemic on activity and mental health

Survey is online now to gather data from people of all backgrounds on physical activity changes

Researchers in Chilliwack are curious how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people’s physical activity and well being.

And so, they’ve launched a public survey to see if they can find some answers.

Dr. Iris Lesser is a physical activity researcher at the University of the Fraser Valley, who has already been overseeing a research study on exercise and anxiety in cancer patients. Now, she’s also working with Dr. Carl Neinhuis, a psychology researcher at UFV, and Dr. Lisa Belanger at the University of Calgary.

“We are conducting an online survey to learn about your physical activity behavior, environmental preferences and mental health since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing parameters in Canada,” she says.

Both anxiety and depression are projected to be on the rise, due to fear and uncertainty, grief and economic loss, she says. And physical activity has many benefits associated with mental well being.

“These are thought to be amplified when conducted in a natural environment,” she says, something that she witnessed in the recent study with cancer survivors.

READ MORE: Cancer anxiety research program returns for spring hikes

“Walking in the woods decreased trait anxiety and reduced perceived stress after eight weeks,” she says. “Participants cited nature as one of the most important aspects to this reduced experience of anxiety.”

While she is always eager to see people increase their activity levels, she also wants to remind everyone to keep the current restrictions on our behaviors in mind. Everyone must work to flatten the curve and stay home as much as possible.

Still, she says, exercise and being outdoors is key to a positive healthly lifestyle, including activities like walking, jogging or cycling.

”However, we must recognize that there will be changes to how we participate in these activities with the necessity of practicing physical distancing,” she says. “Some ways that this can be ensured is by choosing less popular outdoor locations and exercising at non peak hours. For instance, if you arrive at a trail head and see many vehicles consider finding a different location.”

She also hopes everyone will take about 30-45 minutes to join in their research survey, which is available through Survey Monkey.

It’s called Life in Lockdown: Canadian Physical Activity and Psycho-Social Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

READ MORE: Trail density has gone down in Chilliwack from last weekend’s overcrowding


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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