Professor of Behavioural Medicine
Physical activity engagement during lockdown varied and this study indicates a positive link with wellbeing – supporting the notion that physical activity should be considered an important contributor in recovery strategies targeted at older adults as we emerge from the pandemic.
Using the same survey data, the research also considered the impact of social distancing on physical activity. The majority of participants reported continuing to meet physical activity guidelines during lockdown – with 35 percent moderately active and 41 percent highly active. Walking was the greatest contributor to total physical activity, with just over a quarter (26.4%) walking more than before lockdown. Those living in rural areas reported greater volumes of physical activity.
Forty percent of people said they were walking less, compared to before lockdown, and a similar proportion were engaging in less moderate physical activity. Those who reported in engaging in lower physical activity had poorer wellbeing.
Individuals who reported no change in moderate physical activity were the most active pre-lockdown and those who reported no change in walking had significantly higher levels of total physical activity pre-lockdown.
Professor Whittaker said: “Physical activity engagement during lockdown varied and this study indicates a positive link with wellbeing – supporting the notion that physical activity should be considered an important contributor in recovery strategies targeted at older adults as we emerge from the pandemic.
“There appears to be a relationship between pre-lockdown physical activity and physical activity changes due to lockdown. This may be of significance in the context of trying to get older adults to maintain or increase physical activity, where appropriate, as we emerge from this pandemic, given our understanding of the benefits of physical activity in this age group.
“Additionally, irrespective of pre-lockdown physical activity, older adults should continue to be encouraged to be active, and particularly to engage in some sort of strength and balance training – such as tai chi, yoga, or weights – which was very low in the sample but is vital for maintaining balance and physical function. Just 12 percent of the sample met the physical activity guidelines, which indicate strength training should be undertaken at least twice per week.”
The results will be presented as part of the Scottish Physical Activity Research Connections digital conference, which begins later this week.
Survey responses were received at various phases of lockdown:
- 12 during lockdown: At this stage, contact was permitted within your own household only. Daily (unlimited) exercise was permitted. Entertainment premises and leisure facilities were closed.
- 341 during phase one: More outdoor activity was permitted as long as physically distanced. Meeting up with another household outdoors, in small numbers (maximum eight), including in gardens, was permitted but with physical distancing required. Outdoors exercise was unrestricted, with adherence to distancing measures required. Non-contact, outdoor activities (e.g. golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming, angling) was allowed in your local area.
- 606 during phase two: Outdoor sports re-opened. People not shielding were allowed to meet with more households outside. The limit increased from meeting one household to meeting two households; with an eight-person overall limit, and the need for physical distancing remained. Certain household types were permitted to meet others indoors in an ‘extended household’.
- 470 during phase three: Outdoors, a household was permitted to meet up to four other households at a time, up to 15 people in total. Indoors, a household could meet up to two other households at a time, up to eight people in total. This included overnight stays.