Men, young adults struggling most with physical fitness during pandemic

Although three in four adults are meeting WHO guidelines for exercise, a recent survey shows women and older adults are most likely to be taking care of their bodies during lockdown.

CAMBRIDGE, England — It’s been that much harder to stick to a set exercise routine over the past few months, but the dedicated among us have still found a way to maintain our physical fitness. A recent study looking into which demographics are staying active reveals both men and younger adults are surprisingly far lazier lately than women and older adults.

The research, which includes data on 911 U.K. citizens, was conducted by both Anglia Ruskin University and Ulster University. All participants started filling out exercise surveys online on March 17th of this year.

In all, 75% of participants still met or exceeded the WHO’s official exercise recommendation of either 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. This finding is actually quite positive. Previous surveys show that somewhere between just 58% and 66% of the U.K.’s population logs enough exercise.


That said, women, older adults, and participants with a higher annual household income are all significantly more likely to meet the WHO’s physical fitness guidelines. Interestingly, this finding directly contradicts similar projects conducted before COVID-19 emerged. Back then, men and younger adults were observed to be exercising more than other demographics.

“The overall levels of physical activity are higher than we were expecting,” says lead study author Dr. Lee Smith, Reader in Physical Activity and Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University, in a release.

“It may be that the UK public have experienced an increase in free time and used this time to be physically active. Additionally, during the early stages of the outbreak, one of the few reasons to leave home was to take part in an hour of exercise. As well as offering a reason to go outside, this may have served as a target for some people,” he concludes. “Typically, the proportion of UK adults meeting physical activity guidelines declines with age. Therefore, there should be additional support offered to older adults to encourage them to sustain this level of physical activity post pandemic.”

The study is published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.

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