Active Lockdown – Exploring the effect of government enforced lockdown on physical activity habits and the corresponding relationship with wellbeing
Other Authors: Steven Baker and Kimberley Schenke
Aim: Regular physical activity benefits our health, both physically and mentally, yet there is low engagement statistically, often justified by lacking motivation or spare time. The COVID19 lockdown presented unprecedented circumstances where many were unable to work or leave the house, except to exercise. This present study investigated whether the COVID-19 pandemic government-enforced lockdown influenced the physical activity habits of individual’s in England, and whether any relationship between these physical activity habits and the individual’s mental wellbeing existed during the pandemic.
Methods: This research consisted of two online surveys, at two time points during the COVID19 lockdown. The first collected physical activity level data (Past-Week Modifiable Activity Questionnaire and accelerometer data) on a reflective basis regarding pre-lockdown for 277 individuals (175 females, 102 males; MAge=36.4, SD=15.2) and also physical activity and mental wellbeing data (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale) during lockdown. The second survey coincided with England’s release from full lockdown, allowing non-essential shops to reopen; it entailed the same measures and additionally two open questions regarding motivations to exercise.
Results: Analyses indicated that lockdown had a significant effect on the length of time participants spent engaging in physical activity, though metabolic equivalency and accelerometer data were not significant. The difference in individual’s physical activity levels between lockdown and pre-lockdown when compared by the perception of spare time elicited significant effects in self-reported data, such that those with perceived spare time during lockdown did the greatest level of physical activity (though not statistically significant for accelerometer data). However, when ‘eased lockdown’ data was examined, this was not deemed statistically significant. Correlational analyses examining the relationship between physical activity levels and mental wellbeing showed the self-reported data had a significant effect on mental wellbeing during lockdown, though the correlation’s strengths were low.
Conclusions: The findings demonstrate that lockdown had a positive impact on physical activity habits, with time spent exercising greatly increasing. Results also found that those with spare time during lockdown elicited greater self-reported physical activity levels than previously. The data also supported previous literature outlining the positive relationship between physical activity and wellbeing, despite the extremely negative circumstances that caused the lockdown.