The Effect of COVID-19 in Student Mental Health and the Importance of Exercise

Articles COVID-19
GivePenny | 27 27
Mind 27 27 Challenge

You might have heard of Brain-Based’s engagement in Mind’s 27 27 challenge.

This challenge encourages participants to run 27 miles in 27 days in support of the 27% of students who report mental health difficulties during university.

Brain-Based has jumped on this opportunity to raise awareness about these concerning figures and collect funds towards this worthy cause.

Interestingly, a recent study from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and University of California, San Diego has not only further supported the importance and urgency of this cause, but also proven Mind’s challenge to be appropriate for fighting the issue at stake.

Through a series of surveys and biometric data from almost 700 college students before and during the pandemic, the team gathered invaluable insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the nature of the relationship between physical activity and mental health.

Researchers found that the rate of clinical depression increased from 32% to 61% in the space of 2 months! This shocking number is nearly double the rate prior to the pandemic.

The researchers explain that this may be associated with drastic changes in student’s lifestyle habits. This assumption is made based on reports from the participants’ FitBits (a device that tracked their activity levels), indicating the average steps of students declined from 10’000 to 4’600 steps per day.

In an attempt to revert the effects of the pandemic on students’ mental health, the researchers implemented an intervention where half of the participants were incentivised to walk 10’000 steps per day for 2 weeks. However, the intervention did not improve the students’ mental health.

It was understood that the length of the intervention was not sufficient to revert the effects of the pandemic, however, the researchers suggested that further research was needed to determine whether this intervention would be efficient in the long-term.

Alternatively, the idea of social interaction was introduced as an intermediate factor in the relationship between physical activity and mental health. This could also explain why the intervention was unsuccessful.

Nonetheless, co-author Sally Sodoff explained: “the results revealed that those who maintained physical exercise throughout the pandemic were the most resilient and least likely to suffer from depression.”

Learn more about Mind

Mind is a mental health-focused non-profit organisation who provide advice and support to empower individuals struggling with mental health problems. Mind works to improve services, raise awareness, and promote understanding around mental health.

Their strategy is called ‘building on change’. Because of Mind, millions more people have access to advice and support. However, they express that “too many people still don’t have the things they need and deserve to stay well. And that’s not good enough.”


In the last year, Mind has voiced the following impact:

During these difficult times, we need each other more than ever.

Visit Mind’s website to find out more about their mission, how they can help you and how you can help them!

Source: Upton High, “Learners- emotional health and wellbeing” (2020).

Additional Support: Please note that if you or anyone you know is suffering with suicidal thoughts, the Samaritans, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, can also be contacted on 116 123 or via email at or For individuals under the age of 19, you may also contact the Childline at 0800 1111. For additional resources, please see below and also refer

Article source: Giuntella, O. et al., 2021. Lifestyle and mental health disruptions during COVID-19. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(9).

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Featured Image: by Cottonbro from Pexels

Edited by Cyrus Rohani-Shukla

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