Canadians aren’t getting enough light physical activity during the pandemic, according to a new study from UBC’s school of kinesiology released Monday (July 27).
Light activity was defined by the study as an activity that is “leisurely, allowing for easy conversation” such as walking and other everyday activities.
Canadians have been instructed to stay at home since physical distancing measures were introduced this spring. While researchers expected a decline in physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, data collected from 2,338 Canadians found that light physical activity declined from an average of 1.023 minutes per week pre-pandemic to 730 minutes per week post-pandemic.
The study, published in Frontiers of Psychology, found that moderate-to-vigorous activity declined between nine to 12.6 per cent from the beginning of the pandemic when physical distancing was introduced, but has returned to normal levels in the weeks since.
“Traditionally we’ve always focused on moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, but more recent evidence shows that light physical activity can have some of the same benefits to physical and mental health,” said Katie Di Sebastiano, a postdoctoral fellow in kinesiology, and lead author of the study. “That’s a significant amount of activity that Canadians in the study were no longer getting.”
Staying active has been proven to be effective at preventing and treating a variety of ailments, including heart disease and diabetes. More recent evidence also shows that physical activity can help with the health issues related to COVID-19 by strengthening the immune system and improving mental health.
“These results really highlight the need to consider physical activity when we’re creating public health guidelines for a second wave of infections, or for future pandemics,” said Di Sebastiano. “In particular, our findings demonstrate the necessity for public health measures that provide extra space for everyone to engage in incidental activity through walking or cycling
The study used physical activity data from an app called ParticipACTION, which collected that data during a 10-week period from Feb. 10 to April 19, giving the study four weeks of pre-pandemic data and six weeks of post-pandemic data. This data included heart rate and speed of steps.
The participants of the study were mostly between 35-44 years old (26.6 per cent) and female (90.2 per cent). The study’s findings claim that this loss of activity may have significant long-term implications for the physical and mental health of Canadians.
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