Moving Less in a Pandemic- Impact on Physical Health

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We are now in month six of the global pandemic of COVID-19. Many papers focusing on the direct care of the virus are being published at a significantly accelerated pace. I have written about the mental health impacts in prior blog posts, but what about physical health?

A new editorial, in the Journal of Sport Health Science by Barbara Ainsworth from the University of Sport in Shanghai, China explores papers on the impact of the pandemic on physical activity. Moderate physical activity is good for us, 30 minutes a day, or 150 minutes a week is a useful guide for improved health. Even with shelter in place orders in most countries, people were advised to engage in some form of exercise daily. Activity is also support for our immune system, so in addition to being helpful for mental health, being physically active can stave off chronic conditions was worsening.

The editorial also features articles that use modeling on how less physical activity during the pandemic point to increasing rates of childhood obesity as children are homeschooled, often balanced between a parent’s workday. As we settle into our new normal, the long term impacts of how dramatically our lives have changed are better understood. A paper by Tison shows a 27% drop in physical activity rates globally using iphone data on steps counts. While this is a convenience sample it does point to some concerning temporary trends that may have long term implications. The table belows show the geographic variation.



Mean daily steps and percentage of change from step count at baseline by country.

Mean daily steps by country.  Source:

How can we create routines that include physical activity? How can public health messaging reinforce the importance of being active for children and adults during the pandemic, so we don’t have a worsening of obesity and diabetes?

The series of papers featured in this issue ofthe Journal of Sport Health Science is essential to our understanding of maintaining health while practicing the key behaviors to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Thanks for reading – Trina
(Opinions are my own).



Physical activity during the coronavirus disease-19 global pandemic. (2020). Journal of sport and health science, S2095-2546(20)30070-3. Advance online publication. 

Worldwide Effect of COVID-19 on Physical Activity: A Descriptive Study

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