Lockdown, Working from Home, Mental Health and Exercise.

Sam Catherall – Exercise Physiologist.


As with many around Australia and the world, Canberrans are experiencing the not so unfamiliar environment of widespread lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who are able, have been encouraged to work from home, which can be all encapsulating during these troubling times. One of the first things many forget is that exercise is vital to both our physical and mental health.


Are you working from home?

With most of Australia staying at home, many are subject to a working from home desk set up. Some are better than others, hopefully yours does not involve slouching on the couch but rather sourcing an appropriate chair and desk to optimise your productivity and of course, prevent any adverse pain in your back, neck and shoulders.  While there is not one correct way to sit at a workstation, seating should support postures that can be changed frequently throughout the day.  What is most important, is that you have frequent rests from your desk, get up and move around. (See the end of this insight for some simple mobility exercises!)

How can exercise help with mental health? 🧘‍♂️

Exercise is not just about muscular size and cardiac fitness. Sure, it can improve physical health, reduce the risk of chronic conditions, help with weight management and strength gains. But that’s not why everyone exercises. Many individuals find a sense of well-being, better sleep, ability to think critically, restfulness and generally more positive about life.

There is a growing body of evidence-based research suggesting that exercise is an effective form of management for both acute and chronic mental health conditions. Many studies even suggest that exercise is just as effective, if not more so than many pharmacological interventions in the management of major depressive symptoms, potentially without the side-effects also.

Where should you start?

The current physical activity guidelines suggest everyone should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. This equates to less than 30 minutes each day. In fact, based on a meta-analytic finding, an exercise prescription of 3x 20min exercise bouts at a moderate intensity has proven sufficient to significantly reduce symptoms of depression1.  In conjunction with this, it is recommended to participate in whole body strength-based training at least 2 times per week.

With the growing uncertainty of whether heading outside to exercise is safe, it is important to not rule out physical movement in its entirety. As there are many modalities to get your body moving and reap the benefits of a good sweat session, what are your options? A good starting point is 30 minutes of brisk walking a few times per week. Higher Function run clinical exercise classes, which are designed to improve strength, core stability and balance. Classes are available to attend online through telehealth and are led by health professionals. These classes are also claimable from most Private Health Insurers!

Remember: 💡

  • The best form of exercise is the type that you can regularly participate in for a long time, take the time to explore what you enjoy, and stick to it.
  • Set short term goals for your exercise each week (3x 30-minute walks, plus 1 – 3 x Higher Function Clinical Exercise classes, via Zoom!).
  • Plan your exercise to fit in with your work/lifestyle.
  • It can be helpful to speak to a professional such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who understands the challenges that may be associated with exercising during these unprecedented times. AEPs have the clinical skills to help you overcome your individual barriers and design an exercise plan that is tailored to your circumstances.


Check out our downloads below for some simple mobility exercises and WFH desk set up:


Remember, we’re all in this together! Stay safe, Stay healthy and stay active! 🍎🏃😄

If you or anyone you know is struggling, reach out and contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.




Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 104-111.

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Higher Function Team reception@higherfunction.com.au
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