The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how and where we work and for many it’s left them out of work. In two separate studies, researchers examined levels of physical activity and hours spent sitting as well as in front of a screen.
The first study, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, found nearly 43% of participants reported sitting for more than eight hours a day. However, nearly 73% said they were sufficiently active (150-300 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity) or highly active (more than 300 minutes.)
The second study, published in the journal Frontier in Public Health, included data from 2,303 adults who were employed prior to the pandemic. Compared to those whose employment remained unchanged, participants who were working from home or lost their job due to COVID-19 reported higher sitting time and screen time. There were no significant group differences for physical activity.
From the researchers
“The pandemic has led to many changes in our lives and our research is showing that many people are engaging in a large amount of sitting, likely beyond previous levels, particularly in those working from home or who have lost their job due to the pandemic. As sitting time and the associated behaviors are associated with worse mental and physical health, finding ways to limit sitting and/or screen time are paramount during this period. To reduce pandemic-related sitting, create breaks in your day. For example, set a 30-minute timer that prompts you to get up and then make sure you do. Try to be intentional about finding work that does not require a computer or a screen.”
Jacob Meyer, assistant professor of Kinesiology at Iowa State University
“Even one week of increased sedentary time can have negative physical and mental health effects, and the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity are well documented. The purpose of these reports is to highlight the levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior in the general population and among people who experienced changes to their employment conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we head into winter when we are generally less active, it is more important now than ever to plan how we are going to remain active. Evidence shows that replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity provides health benefits. If you are inactive, you also might slowly build up to doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week to help reduce the negative health effects of sedentary behavior.”
Cillian McDowell, postdoctoral research fellow at Trinity College Dublin