MONTREAL -- Montreal-area nurses who have been working on the front lines under grueling conditions for over a year were out for a run on Sunday, part of an effort to promote good mental health through exercise.

Gulin Yilmaz worked on the MUHC's COVID-19 ward during the pandemic's first wave recalled a time when healthcare professionals worked exhausting hours while trying to learn how best to treat the virus.

“Its a lot of emotional and spiritual responsibility,” she said.

To stay mentally strong, Yilmaz would carve out time for herself to get some exercise.

“At night shift, I was running at 3 a.m. around the hospital just to release that energy that accumulated.”

That little bit of exertion made a big difference.

“When you exercise, you connect to yourself, so you're able to put things in perspective,” she said. “It gives you energy, physically, mentally and spiritually.”

That's why Yilmaz and colleagues were out running 52 kilometres, stopping at nine hospitals and three CHSLDs to inspire healthcare workers and teach them the importance of preserving their mental health with fitness.

“Running is very hard until it becomes easy,” said nurse Melanie Myrand. “You think when you go on your run, you're just going to be focusing on how terrible the day was, but really, that doesn't happen. I find you come away with more energy. Sometimes you go into the run and think you're going to be so tired but you come out of it with some renewed energy.”