Population level physical activity before and during the first national COVID-19 lockdown: A nationally representative repeat cross-sectional study of 5 years of Active Lives data in England.
The Lancet regional health. Europe 2021 ; 12: 100265.
PubMed ID : 34870255
PMCID : PMC8629728
To limit the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, the population of England was instructed to stay home, leaving only for essential shopping, health-care, work, or exercise. The impact on population activity behaviours is not clear. We describe changes in duration and types of activity undertaken by adults ≥16 years in England between March and May 2016-19 and 2020, by socio-demographic strata.
Using nationally representative data collected between November 2015 and May 2020 by the Sport England Active Lives Surveys (n=726,257) we assessed trends in amount and type of non-occupational moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Using data from n=74,430 mid-April to mid-May respondents, we then estimated the odds ratios of reporting any activity in the four-week recall period in 2020 compared to 2016-19. Gamma regressions estimated the mean ratios (MR) of duration amongst those reporting any activity in 2020 compared to 2016-19.
Population activity declined substantially after the restrictions were introduced. Compared to 2016-19 levels, the odds of reporting any activity in 2020 were 30% lower (95% confidence interval (CI) 26-34%). The largest declines were amongst non-white ethnicities, the youngest and oldest age groups, and the unemployed; no socio-demographic subgroup had higher odds. Amongst those undertaking activity, weekly duration was similar in the two periods (MR 0.99, 95%CI (0.96-1.01%)). The odds of participating in walking for leisure and gardening were 11% (6-16%) and 15% (9-21%) higher, respectively, whereas the odds for team and racket sport and walking for travel participation were 76% (73-79%) and 66% (64-68%) lower, respectively.
Restrictions introduced in Spring 2020 likely reduced physical activity levels in England. The magnitude of the declines were not uniform by demographic groups or by activity type, which future policies should consider.
TS, KW, SJS, and SB are supported by UK Medical Research Council [grant numbers MC_UU_00006/4 and MC_UU_12015/3] and SB is supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Cambridge (IS-BRC-1215-20014).