More people are using exercise to help manage their mental health, according to a new survey

There's been a newfound appreciation for staying active during lockdown (Getty Images)

The majority of people are now using exercise to manage their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.

Research conducted by Sport England, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, found that 63% of people across the first six weeks of lockdown were staying active to look after their minds.

It discovered that people are turning to fitness as a result of the restrictions on movement since late March.

These included working out at home, running in the park and walking or cycling to the shops for essentials.

Read more: Getting fit during the lockdown could save your life from coronavirus, say health professors

Initially, the government allowed people to leave their homes once a day for local activity, and earlier this month sanctioned unlimited exercise.

The survey also showed that over time, concerns about leaving home have eased - with 60% worried about this in the first fortnight, and a reduced 47% in week six of lockdown.

Lisa O’Keefe, executive director of insight at Sport England, said: “It has been great to see people finding ways to be active and that more and more people are talking about exercise being part of the approach to managing both their physical and mental health.

“Undoubtedly the current period has been hugely difficult for both the sport and physical activity sector and the general public, yet people are finding a new appreciation for moving more – whether it’s at home or out walking or cycling.

Read more: Is it possible to go swimming during the current coronavirus restrictions?

“The pandemic has changed the way we engage with activity and it will continue to do so as we begin the gradual journey towards a new normal as more sport and leisure facilities open up.”

The most popular forms of lockdown activity are walking and cycling - with the former increasing from 59% in week one to 63% in week six, with the latter seeing a boost from 8% to 13%.

Similarly, 45% of people have been working out at home by doing activities like exercise classes.

However, getting back into the gym was shown to the most popular activity they looked forward to once restrictions were lifted.

Read more: Exercising regularly could have an anti-ageing effect on the body, say scientists

The new findings come as it was revealed that getting fit and shifting excess pounds could save your life.

Health professors are warning that an infection may prove fatal for those who are unfit or obese.

Speaking to The Sunday Times last month, Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London’s school of public health, said: “It is always better to stay fit and healthy.

“We need to assess our risks from a personal perspective, including getting fit and losing weight.”

Fredrik Karpe, professor of metabolic medicine at Oxford University, also told the paper that those with a lot of excess weight will find their bodies struggle to fight the condition.

He explained: “If you have a big belly, then when you lie down the weight of it pushes your diaphragm upwards, reducing lung volume.

“This virus is all about lung function.”