COVID-19, Stress, and the Benefits of Physical Activity

   While public health experts and some state governors advocate for individuals to stay inside and self-isolate, the current COVID-19 epidemic is highlighting the effects that isolation has on an individual.  Individualized separation, combined with a reified perception of COVID-19’s danger and the anxiety of processing new information every day, causes chronic stress and is associated with a burden on mental health, which increases risk factors for anxiety and depression.  Further, it is well-established that stress is a powerful modulator of immunity, so stress directly influences the probability of infection.

   Also, chronic stress causes structural and functional changes in the brain, resulting in modified social behaviors, which further limit an individual’s ability to cope with his or her stressful conditions through the lockdowns.  A 2015 study published in Nature, perhaps the world’s most acclaimed science journal, titled “Stress and the social brain: behavioral effects and neurobiological mechanisms” investigated stress’ effects on brain neurology.  The researchers noted that “the effects of stress on social behavior depend on the timing, the duration, and the type of stress exposure.” In humans, stress promotes prosocial behaviors [behaviors that benefit others rather than oneself] toward ingroup members [members of one’s social group], and these positive s ...

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