A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history.

Experts say Blue Monday may be a little more than a marketing gimmick, but the pseudo-scientific concept speaks to the real struggles weighing on Canadians between the doldrums of winter and the pandemic’s second wave.

But the national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association says one of the best salves for this contagion-fuelled seasonal slump is as simple as getting up on your own two feet.

“Our physical well-being really impacts our mental well-being,” Margaret Eaton said. “There is a very well documented connection showing that increasing your physical activity definitely impacts your mood.”

There’s no evidence to support the notion that the third Monday of January is the glummest date on the calendar, but Eaton said the concept of Blue Monday may especially resonate this year.

In a spring survey of more than 1,800 participants, 84 per cent of Canadians reported that their mental health had worsened since the outbreak hit, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Eaton suspects that moods haven’t improved as the COVID-19 crisis has dragged on, and with the onset of seasonal affective disorder, she said many Canadians are contending with a potent confluence of psychological stressors.

The weather is getting colder. The holidays are over, and bills are coming due. Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts. It’s been nearly a year since people have been able to safely socialize with their friends.

And forget about those New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym. That’s not even an option in many parts of the country.

Some people are also indulging in “temporary fixes” such as food and alcohol to distract themselves from the dolor of the pandemic, Eaton said, rather than engaging in diversions that have been proven to lift people’s spirits.

“Canadians are not turning to physical activity to help with their mental health,” said Leigh Vanderloo, an exercise scientist with non-profit Participaction. “There seems to be a disconnect. We know it helps, but we don’t necessarily do it.”

According data collected by Participaction, Canadians are more likely to cope with the anxieties of life under lockdown through sedentary activities, such as increased screen time, rather than by getting active.

But research suggests that all it takes is a single bout of physical activity to release neurochemicals that lift one’s mood, Vanderloo said.

You don’t have to commit to an intense training routine or invest in expensive equipment to see the benefits of exercise, she said. The key is to find an activity you enjoy, whether that’s a stroll outdoors or a brief dance break.

Vanderloo said it’s also important to spend a few minutes moving for every hour you spend sitting. She encouraged desk dwellers to find ways to sneak in steps during the workday, such as pacing while on phone calls.

The key is consistency, said Vanderloo, and in such uncertain times, an exercise routine can offer some much-needed structure.

“It might take a little bit of trial and error. But there’s certainly an activity out there for everyone.”

ALSO READ: B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusFitness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls club Pink Shirt day design focuses on kindness

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Most Read