The Lingering Impact of COVID 19 Shutdowns on Physical Activity Habits in the United States

Astrid Mel, Mary Stenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The 2020 COVID-19 shutdown in the United States disrupted normal routines including physical activity (PA) habits. The purpose of this study was to compare participant predictions for maintaining during-shutdown PA habits surveyed in June 2020 to actual PA in June 2021. Methods: 350 participants completed a one year follow up study distributed by email. Composite PA scores were calculated by the product of days per week, range of minutes per session, and average session intensity (measured on a 1-5 scale). Results: Days per week of PA increased from pre-shutdown (PRE-S) (3.91 ± 1.89) to during (DUR-S) (4.55 ± 2.02; p < 0.001) and post-shutdown (POST-S) (4.52 ± 1.97; p < 0.001; F = 20.45; p < 0.001). Minutes of exercise per session were not significantly different over time (F = 2.22; p = 0.11). PRE-S intensity (2.88 ± 1.02) was significantly higher than DUR-S intensity (2.71 ± 1.06; p = 0.018), which was significantly lower than POST-S intensity (2.92 ± 0.98; p < 0.001; F = 5.72; p = 0.004). PRE-S composite scores (28.17 ± 24.31) were significantly lower than during (31.67 ± 25.59; p = 0.011) and POST-S scores (31.25 ± 24.54; p = 0.007). Conclusions: Individuals correctly predicted PA levels POST-S. Weekly PA increased from PRE-S to POST-S. The pandemic caused major life disruptions which may have provided incentive for individuals to reassess their lifestyle habits and improve health-related behaviors. Life disruptions like the COVID-19 shutdowns can be leveraged for PA behavior modifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-54
Number of pages13
JournalPhysical Activity and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

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  • behavior modification
  • coronavirus
  • exercise
  • pandemic


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