A survey by Sport England during Mental Health Awareness week shows people have turned to cycling and walking to keep active outdoors during the current coronavirus pandemic with 63% of people across the first six weeks of last year’s lockdown in the UK, saying exercise is important for their mental health.
The latest findings from the survey, commissioned to track the public’s activity levels and attitudes towards exercise during the initial six weeks of lockdown, shows new exercise habits have formed as a result of restrictions on movement and the importance people place on exercise to their mental health.
The figures also show that as the initial phase of lockdown progressed, people’s worries about leaving home to exercise eased, with 47% having reservations in week six, compared to 60% in the first two weeks.
Walking and cycling have proved to be the most popular forms of outdoor activity during the initial lockdown phase, with people walking for exercise up from 59% in week one to 63% in week six, and cycling increasing from 8% to 13%. That is compared to 61.9% of adults walking and 16.3% cycling at least twice a month, pre-coronavirus.
Meanwhile an average of 45% of people have been keeping active at home, whether that be with online exercise classes or just dancing around the living room. The research has also shown, however, that while intentions and attitudes to exercise are positive, inequalities still exist in those who are getting active.
Those from lower socio-economic groups, older people, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups and women, are all less likely to be active, with these results also seen in activity levels prior to the current crisis.
A gender gap remains, with more men than women doing the recommended 150 minutes of activity a week – 35% compared to 30%. And more women are doing less activity than usual during lockdown – 40% compared to 36%. While 23% of people with long-term health conditions are doing the recommended amount compared to 35% of those without.
In the US the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and 2 sessions per week of muscle strength training.
While the data is still coming together, early reports suggest the pandemic is making Americans more sedentary than ever and the effects may be long-lasting.
A preliminary study on the research publication platform Cambridge Open Engage found that Americans are exercising less than usual during the pandemic and sitting and looking at screens more. In a sample of about 3,000 US adults, people who were meeting exercise guidelines before the pandemic reported an average 32% reduction in physical activity once social-distancing measures went into effect.
Whilst we are all managing additional stress, relating to the growth of the Covid-19 pandemic, we should all consider using physical activity and exercise as a strategy to maintain both physical and mental health during this difficult period.
Source: https://www.sportengland.org https://medicine.umich.edu https://www.exerciseismedicine.org