Physical activity and mental health during COVID-19 lockdown: An international comparison
Elliot, Catherine; Faulkner, J.; O'Brien, W.; McGrane, B.; Wadsworth, D.; Batten, J.; Askew, C.; Badenhorst, C.; Byrd, E.; Coulter, M.; Draper, N.; Fryer, S.; Hamlin, Michael J.; Jakeman, J.; Macintosh, K.; McNarry, M.; Mitchelmore, A.; Murphy, J.; Ryan-Stewart, H.; Saynor, Z.; Schaumberg, M.; Stone, K.; Stoner, L.; Stuart, B.; Lambrick, D.
Introduction: At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, national governments implemented strict containment strategies to limit the spread of the virus. This study assessed physical activity, mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 restrictions in adults across the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. Method: An online survey was distributed in each country using convenience sampling, within 2-6 weeks of government mandated COVID-19 restrictions. During the COVID-19 restriction period, participants completed the Stages of Change scale in relation to exercise behaviour change, the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (short-form), World Health Organisation-5 Well-being Index and the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale-9. Participants also completed the Stages of Change scale for exercise behaviour change with respect to pre-COVID-19 restrictions. Results: In a sample of 8,425 people, individuals who reported a negative change in exercise behaviour between pre- and during COVID-19 restrictions demonstrated poorer mental health and wellbeing (p < 0.001). Whilst women reported more positive changes in exercise behaviour, young people (aged 18-29 years) reported more negative changes (both p < 0.001). Although there were no differences in physical-activity participation between countries, New Zealand reported significantly higher mental health and wellbeing (p < 0.001) while Ireland reported significantly lower (p < 0001). The UK and Australia had significantly greater negative change in exercise behaviour than NZ or IRE (p < .0001). Discussion: These findings have important implications for policy and guideline recommendations to encourage people to be physically active, as well as targeting known groups (i.e., men, young adults) who are more likely to become less physically active and experience poorer mental health and wellbeing outcomes during periods of physical distancing. Take home message: During the height of the COVID-19 restrictions, people who reported a negative change in exercise behaviour between pre- and during-COVID-19 restrictions demonstrated poorer mental health and wellbeing.... [Show full abstract]
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