The Effects of a Pandemic on Our Health: Physical Activity & Exercise

The past few days we have discussed pandemic weight gain with a focus on diet. But, the other side of that weight gain coin is all about physical activity and exercise.

There have been several studies done on sedentary behaviors throughout the pandemic and the results are unsurprising. One study discovered that while there was a reported decrease in vigorous physical activity and a notable increase in sedentary behavior, there was an increase in walking and moderate physical activity (Cheval et al., 2020). The study discovered that just the commuting changes in certain populations had a heavy influence on physical activity within those groups of people especially (Cheval et al., 2020). While the activity level changes did not meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards, the increase in walking and moderate physical activity was still beneficial to those populations (Cheval et al., 2020).

Another study linked reduced physical activity and increased screen time during the pandemic to “worse depression, loneliness, stress, and PMH (positive mental health)” (Meyer et al., 2020). They also discovered that self isolation / quarantine versus social distancing showed increased anxiety and depressive symptoms (Meyer et al., 2020). The conclusion suggests that the mental health consequences could potentially have been reduced if participants had been able to maintain their previous physical activity levels and lowered screen time (Meyer et al., 2020).

We know, even before COVID, that physical activity and exercise allow people of all ages to “maintain an adequate health status”  and can help reduce the risk or the severity of numerous chronic conditions and diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and even frailty and dementia in older populations (Jiménez-Pavón et al., 2020). But, the immediate, radical shift people experienced during lockdown added in additional stress and resulting negative psychological effects like anger and post-traumatic stress symptoms, which adds to the potential health consequences of reduced physical activity (Jiménez-Pavón et al., 2020). This research team identified a suitable mantra of “doing at least some exercise is better than nothing” and recognized that physical activity and exercise habits may need to be altered depending on lockdown, the accessibility of exercise facilities, and other factors, but supporting patients as they navigate this new terrain, helping them develop a fitness regime that they are able to do from home safely, will be instrumental in helping them get through the rest of this pandemic period and getting back into good habits for post-COVID activities (Jiménez-Pavón et al., 2020).


Cheval, B., Sivaramakrishnan, H., Maltagliati, S., Fessler, L., Forestier, C., Sarrazin, P., Orsholits, D., Chalabaev, A.,

Sander, D., Ntoumanis, N. & Boisgontier, B. (2020). Relationships between changes in self-reported physical

activity, sedentary behaviour and health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in France and

Switzerland. Journal of Sport Sciences 39(6), 699-704.

Meyer, J., McDowell, C., Lansing, J., Brower, C., Smith, L., Tully, M., & Herring, M. (2020). Changes in Physical

Activity and Sedentary Behavior in Response to COVID-19 and Their Associations with Mental Health in 3052

US Adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(18),


Jiménez-Pavón, D., Carbonell-Baeza, A., & Lavie, C. J. (2020). Physical exercise as therapy to fight against the mental

and physical consequences of COVID-19 quarantine: Special focus in older people. Progress in cardiovascular

          diseases63(3), 386–388.


Leave a Reply