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Prevalence and correlates of physical activity in a sample of UK adults observing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic
  1. Lee Smith1,
  2. Louis Jacob2,
  3. Laurie Butler3,
  4. Felipe Schuch4,
  5. Yvonne Barnett5,
  6. Igor Grabovac6,
  7. Nicola Veronese7,
  8. Cristina Caperchione8,
  9. Guillermo F Lopez-Sanchez9,
  10. Jacob Meyer10,
  11. Mohammad Abufaraj11,
  12. Anita Yakkundi12,
  13. Nicola Armstrong13,
  14. Mark A Tully14
  1. 1The Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine, University of Versailles Saint‐Quentin‐en‐Yvelines, Montigny‐le- Bretonneux, France
  3. 3Faculty of Science and Engineering, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  4. 4Department of Sports Methods and Techniques, Federal University of Santa Maria, Santa Maria, Brazil
  5. 5Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
  6. 6Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Centre for Public Health, Medical University Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  7. 7Geriatric Unit, Department of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy
  8. 8School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, University of Technology, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  9. 9Faculty of Sport Science, University of Murcia, Murcia, Spain
  10. 10Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, Iowa, Missouri, USA
  11. 11Department of Special Surgery, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan
  12. 12Northern Ireland Public Health Research Network, School of Health Sciences, Ulster University, Ulster, Ireland
  13. 13HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland), Belfast, Ireland
  14. 14Institute of Mental Health Sciences, School of Health Sciences, Ulster University, Newtownabbey, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lee Smith; lee.smith{at}


Objective To investigate the levels and correlates of physical activity during COVID-19 social distancing in a sample of the UK public.

Methods This paper presents analyses of data from a cross-sectional study. Levels of physical activity during COVID-19 social distancing were self-reported. Participants also reported on sociodemographic and clinical data. The association between several factors and physical activity was studied using regression models.

Results Nine hundred and eleven adults were included (64.0% were women and 50.4% of the participants were aged 35–64 years). 75.0% of the participants met the physical activity guidelines during social distancing. Meeting these guidelines during social distancing was significantly associated with sex (reference: male; female: OR=1.60, 95% CI 1.10 to 2.33), age (reference: 18–34 years; ≥65 years: OR=4.11, 95% CI 2.01 to 8.92), annual household income (reference: <£15 000; £15 000–<£25 000: OR=2.03, 95% CI 1.11 to 3.76; £25 000–<£40 000: OR=3.16, 95% CI 1.68 to 6.04; £40 000–<£60 000: OR=2.27, 95% CI 1.19 to 4.34; ≥£60 000: OR=2.11, 95% CI 1.09 to 4.09), level of physical activity per day when not observing social distancing (OR=1.00 (per 1 min increase), 95% CI 1.00 to 1.01), and any physical symptom experienced during social distancing (reference: no; yes: OR=0.31, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.46).

Conclusion During COVID-19, social distancing interventions should focus on increasing physical activity levels among younger adults, men and those with low annual household income. It should be noted in the present sample that women and younger adults are over-represented.

  • physical activity
  • epidemiology
  • public health

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  • LS and LJ contributed equally.

  • Contributors LS, MT, YB, and LB conceived the idea. LS, MT and LJ analysed and interpreted the data. LS drafted the manuscript. All authors critically revised the manuscript and approved the final draft before submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Anglia Ruskin University Research Ethics Committee (16 March 2020).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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