Using the COM-B model of behaviour change to understand participation in Sport and Physical Activity in Ireland during COVID-19.
Other authors: Benny Cullen, Dearbhla Jordan, Vydehi Muppavarapu
Aim: Use 2019 Irish Sports Monitor (ISM) data on determinants of physical activity behaviours- opportunity, capability and motivation, to develop theories that explain the changes in participation levels across different sports during COVID-19.
Methods: In 2019, Sport Ireland used a flexi module of the ISM to survey approximately 1400 individuals to better understand PA behaviours in Ireland as they relate to the COM-B model. We asked 12 questions across capability, opportunity and motivation.
In 2020, a survey of over 5,000 respondents was undertaken over 7 waves between February and July to provide insights into sports participation trends in Ireland throughout Covid-19.
Results: The 2020 COVID-19 research reported a significant reduction in physical inactivity levels. At the peak of the pandemic restrictions in Ireland, 11% of the population, approximately 400,000 people, who were previously inactive, started walking or taking part in sport. COVID-19 and the associated restrictions had limited impact on population capability levels. Capability takes time to build or diminish and some of the behavioural changes we found occurred almost instantly and at scale, indicating that levels of physical and psychological capability were not primary factors in reducing population inactivity.
The impact COVID-19 has had on opportunity could explain the fall in participation levels of facility and team based sports. This is off set by the stay at home phase which resulted in large parts of the population having more free time, a dimension of physical opportunity. However, it seems that something additional inspired the previously inactive individuals – motivation. The 2019 ISM study found that motivation is the COM-B domain most predictive of physical activity, wherein having a routine and setting a goal that supported physical activity showed the most significant correlation to physical activity levels. High levels of reflective motivation triggered within the population as the pandemic hit combined with increased free time can explain the significant reductions in population inactivity.
Conclusion: We need to improve our understanding of the dimensions of reflective and automatic motivation, beginning with the promotion and establishment of sport and physical activity goals and routines at population levels to drive up sports participation.