- Replacing 30 minutes of social media use per day with physical activity can enhance emotional well-being and reduce stress, German researchers say.
- The benefits of exercise lingered as much as 6 months after the end of their study.
- Participants who cut back on social media and exercised more experienced greater happiness and less stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Reduced social media use also correlated with less tobacco consumption.
Social media use exploded with COVID-19’s lockdowns and contact restrictions. Millions turned to Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and other platforms to escape feelings of isolation, anxiety, and hopelessness.
However, excessive screen time has led to addictive behaviors, stronger emotional attachment to social media, and deeper mental anguish for many people.
How exercise benefits the brain
Dr.Sheldon Zablow (who was not involved in the study), is an author and nutritional psychiatrist. He emphasized that “the essential part of any treatment program recommended is exercise. Psychotherapy and, when indicated, medication, will not work well if a person does not exercise.”
Dr. Zablow added that exercise increases the production of neurotransmitters, the brain’s “natural antidepressants and antianxiety molecules.” Consequently, more exercise can build mental health, while less activity due to social media overuse can curtail healthy brain chemistry. He also warned that excessive social media use weakens social interpersonal bonds, which can negatively impact mental health.
“From time to time, it is important to consciously limit one’s online accessibility and to go back to the human roots— […] a physically active lifestyle—to stay happy and healthy in the age of digitalization,” the researchers wrote.