Carnegie Mellon University
January 27, 2021

A Call a Day Keeps the Pandemic Blues Away

By Julie Mattera

Julie Mattera

David Creswell and his daughter recently bought ice skates, and on a good week, they hit the ice every couple of days.

The new winter tradition is more than just fun, said Creswell, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The activity combines exercise and social interaction — two evidence-based strategies that can help reduce stress and foster good mental health during the pandemic winter.

"The science has shown that social connection, social support and physical exercise are key elements to a good life when you're dealing with adversity," said Creswell, a world leader in the emerging science behind what makes people resilient in the midst of stressful and life-altering situations.

When people do both together safely through social sports, they receive a combined benefit from the social connection and the exercise that can have lasting impacts, said Creswell, who's also principal investigator at CMU's Health and Human Performance Lab. A 2018 study in Copenhagen, Denmark, actually found that exercising through social sports, like tennis or badminton, added years to a person's life in comparison to solo workouts, such as running or swimming.

Creswell acknowledges that the pandemic and wintertime pack a one-two punch — people in prolonged quarantine can adopt a learned helplessness. What’s more, the winter months can make it more difficult for people to visit safely with others or exercise outside.

To break out of this rut, Creswell recommends a few simple strategies.

Read more about strategies to try