The sudden and rapid outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) led to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has immensely impacted the global healthcare system and economy.
Similar to many countries around the world, the UK government has also implemented various policies such as: E.g. social distancing, closure of restaurants and gyms and travel restrictions. Full lockdowns have been put in place in some areas and people in those areas have been advised to “stay at home”.
To learn: Exploring barriers and promoters to physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study. Photo credit: Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock.com
Implementation of various non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) for restricted physical activity (PA) outside the home. Previous studies based on quantitative analysis have examined the impact of pandemic restrictions on PA.
Although some studies have reported reduced PA during lockdown times, others have reported different results. For example, one study reported that a significant decrease in PA was observed in younger adults compared to older adults.
Several studies have also shown that some demographic groups, such as B. Individuals with long-term health conditions (LTCs) have experienced longer limitations compared to others. These groups, along with those with mental illnesses (MHCs), showed a decrease in PA during the pandemic. Typically, parents of younger children have additional care responsibilities, which also resulted in reduced PA for these individuals during lockdown periods.
Scientists have pointed out the lack of documents related to qualitative studies on the barriers and promoters of PA during the pandemic. Barriers to PA include the cancellation of group activities, the closure of training facilities, and the lack of relevant equipment for training.
Researchers have described some of the promoters of PA during the pandemic, including a person’s urge to stay fit, to experience a positive mental state after PA, to exercise with another person, and to have access to appropriate exercise equipment and technology.
Several studies conducted in France and the United States reported that older adults dropped out of physical education classes for fear of contracting SARS-CoV-2. Another obstacle highlighted in a previous study was the lack of information about online PA resources. Some other barriers to PA identified in various studies were lack of routine, low motivation, and lack of club activities.
Previous studies have shown that the key factors associated with achieving target behavior are ability (knowledge and skills), opportunity (social and environmental factors), and motivation (cognitive processes that drive behavior). Researchers have pointed out the usefulness of the Ability, Opportunity, and Motivation Model of Behavior (COM-B) in constructing barriers and supporting factor maps. This type of map could be helpful in predicting the need to develop interventions for future pandemics and public health emergencies.
About the study
A new study published on the medRxiv* Preprint Server discusses the results of a qualitative research into the barriers and facilitations for PA during the COVID-19 pandemic across different demographic groups.
The current study was a qualitative part of the UCL-COVID-19 Social Study (CSS) 2020. Although the main objective of the CSS study was to determine the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on mental health and well-being, the Scientists have also expanded their research to determine the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on PA.
In this study, researchers conducted one-on-one interviews via phone/video call with both younger people, ages 18-24, and older adults over 70 years of age. Researchers collected long-term mental health information — long-term health conditions and PA scores of study participants. The authors also identified barriers and enablers through reflexive thematic analysis, while also mapping themes using the COM-B model.
Most themes reflected the physical opportunity and motivation of the COM-B domains. There were no issues related to skills for PA. The results of this study are consistent with previous survey reports that found physical opportunity and reflective motivation to be reliable predictors of behavior.
The importance of the outdoor environment was identified as a key issue as lack of access to the garden was found to inhibit PA. Previous studies have reported that individuals from rural areas have more conducive environments for PA engagement, in contrast to individuals living in urban areas where population densities increase the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
The researchers of the current study believe these results will help in the development of future pandemic guidelines. For example, individuals need to be encouraged to use open spaces and gardens for PA engagements, rather than restricting them. In addition, the introduction of PA advertising initiatives, such as B. Video instructions for training at home and outdoors after pandemic instructions can be of great use.
Notably, those living in LTCs were significantly more affected by “shielded” confinement. Therefore, in future pandemics, vulnerable groups must be advised to safely maintain PA by exercising at home or using home exercise equipment.
One of the strengths of this study is the large sample size, which allowed the researchers to analyze a wide range of views. Taken together, the observations reported in this study can be used to consider strategies to improve physical activity during future lockdowns and pandemics. To prevent further negative health consequences after periods of lockdown, future interventions should promote physical activity and improve opportunities for reflection. Strategies that could be used include tailored exercise guidelines based on location and providing education about the benefits of physical activity.
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and therefore should not be relied upon as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health behavior, or be treated as established information.