Mental Health and Physical Activity: A COVID-19 Viewpoint

Sunday O. Onagbiye1, *, Zandile June-Rose Mchiza2, Ezihe L. Ahanonu3, Susan H. Bassett1, Andre Travill1
1 Department of Sport, Recreation and Exercise Science, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa
2 School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa
3 Harriet Rothkopf Heilbrunn School of Nursing, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY, USA

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Creative Commons License
© 2021 Onagbiye et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at Department of Sport Recreation & Exercise Science, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa; Tel: +27604840456; E-mail:


COVID-19, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, has become a public health emergency across the globe. It is a highly contagious disease, which elicits high levels of fear amongst the world population and is considered a threat to the world economy. As a response to this pandemic, international governments have devised unconventional measures to guard the health of their citizenry. Among these are the “new normal” country lockdown that mandates working from home, home-schooling of children, and physical/social distancing from friends and family. For the majority, this has resulted in momentary job loss and loneliness, and other psychological illnesses. Hence millions are frightened, depressed and panic easily as a result of the tension due to the uncertainty, which interferes with their job performance, livelihoods, international trade and the world economy. If not mitigated, this is likely to cause physical health deterioration, with severe mental illness being the outcome. To reduce mental health illnesses during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, evidence suggests prioritising regular participation in physical activity and exercise across lifespan. It is also important for medical experts who specialise in the care and management of mental health to recognise physical activity and exercise as a medicine that can ameliorate some mental illnesses and their associated risk factors.

Keywords: COVID-19, Mental health, Physical activity and exercise, Well-being, LMIC, Africa.