Changes to physical activity during a global pandemic: A mixed methods analysis among a diverse population-based sample of emerging adults in the U.S.

Amanda L. Folk, Brooke E. Wagner, Samantha L. Hahn, Nicole Larson, Daheia J. Barr-Anderson, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Emerging adults’ lives have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical activity (PA) behaviors need to be examined to inform interventions and improve health. Responses to the C-EAT (COVID-19 Eating and Activity over Time) survey (N = 720; age = 24.7 ± 2.0 yrs) were analyzed. This mixed-methods study quantitatively examined changes in self-reported PA (hours/week of mild PA, moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA), and total PA) from 2018 to 2020. Qualitative responses on how COVID-19 impacted PA were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Hours of PA were lower on average for all intensity levels during COVID-19 than in 2018 (p’s < 0.0001). Over half of the sample reported a decrease in MVPA (53.8%) and total PA (55.6%); 42.6% reported a decrease in mild PA. High SES were more likely to report an increase in total PA (p = 0.001) compared to those of lower SES. Most (83.6%) participants perceived that COVID-19 had influenced their PA. The most common explanations were decreased gym access, effects on outdoor PA, and increased dependence on at-home PA. Results suggest that emerging adults would benefit from behavioral interventions and health promotion efforts in response to the pandemic, with a focus on activities that can be easily performed in the home or in safe neighborhood spaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3674
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Volume18
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Grant Number R35HL139853 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (PI: Neumark-Sztainer). S.L.H.?s time was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant Number: T32MH082761, PI: S. Crow). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Mental Health; or the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Exercise
  • Physical activity
  • Young adults

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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