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

Duncan’s City Hall will get a seismic assessment this year. (File photo)
Duncan City Hall to get seismic assessment

City hopes grants will help pay for seismic upgrades

Vandals damaged a picnic table at Spectacle Lake Park with a chainsaw earlier this month. (Linda Mills photo)
Editorial: Vandals make victims of us all

It is infuriating when people target public property for vandalism.

Vees' Jack Barnes picked up his second goal of the season in the team's 5-0 win over Merritt on Saturday. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Cowichan Capitals in deadline dilemma with 20-year-old players

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

The latest homeless count in the Valley found 129 in a 24-hour period. (File photo)
Latest homeless count reveals 129 in the Cowichan Valley

But local officials believe number is higher

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Island-raised musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

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’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

Most Read