The impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on physical activity amongst older adults: evidence from longitudinal data in the UK

Posted on 23.09.2022 - 03:26
Abstract Background A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of adverse health outcomes and frailty,particularly for older adults. To reduce transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic, people were instructed to stay at home, group sports were suspended, and gyms were closed, thereby limiting opportunities for physical activity. Whilst evidence suggests that physical activity levels reduced during the pandemic, it is unclear whether the proportion of older adults realising the recommended minimum level of physical activity changed throughout the various stages of lockdown. Methods We used a large sample of 3,660 older adults (aged ≥ 65) who took part in the UK Household Longitudinal Study’s annual and COVID-19 studies. We examined changes in the proportion of older adults who were realising the UK Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity recommendations for health maintenance at several time points before and after COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed. We stratified these trends by the presence of health conditions, age, neighbourhood deprivation, and pre-pandemic activity levels. Results There was a marked decline in older adults’ physical activity levels during the third national lockdown in January 2021. The proportion realising the Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity recommendations decreased from 43% in September 2020 to 33% in January 2021. This decrease in physical activity occurred regardless of health condition, age, neighbourhood deprivation, or pre-pandemic activity levels. Those doing the least activity pre-lockdown increased their activity during lockdowns and those doing the most decreased their activity levels. Conclusions Reductions in older adults’ physical activity levels during COVID-19 lockdowns have put them at risk of becoming deconditioned and developing adverse health outcomes. Resources should be allocated to promote the uptake of physical activity in older adults to reverse the effects of deconditioning.

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Elliott, Jack; Munford, Luke; Ahmed, Saima; Littlewood, Alison; Todd, Chris (2022): The impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on physical activity amongst older adults: evidence from longitudinal data in the UK. figshare. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.6211905.v1
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