COVID-19 Quarantine, social isolation, and lockdowns are all necessary public health measures that help stop the spread of disease, but they might discourage people from getting enough exercise. 

There is less evidence to suggest that these shifts are linked to physical or mental health shifts. Self-reported demographic, health, and walking (only at follow-up) data on 2,042 persons in primary care with various chronic health issues were collected between September 2017 and December 2018 (baseline) and March 2020 and February 2021 (follow-up). 

Researchers looked at variations in the mental and physical health summary scores from the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System-29 in relation to self-reported differences in the amount of time spent walking relative to pre-pandemic levels. This correlation was evaluated using multivariate linear regression that factored in demographic, health, and geographical variables. In a survey of 2,042 people, just 9% said they walked more than usual, 28% said they walked less, and 52% said they walked the same amount as before the pandemic. 

Almost 1/3rd of people said they walked less because of the outbreak. Less walking, or no walking at all, was linked to declines in both mental (ß = -1.0; 95% CI [-1.6, -0.5]; ß = −2.2; 95% CI [−2.9, −1.4])  and physical (ß = -0.9; 95% CI [-1.5, -0.3]; ß = −3.1; 95% CI [−4.0, −2.3]) health, as determined by multivariable models. Increasing one’s walking distance was associated with improved physical health (ß = 1.3; 95% CI [0.3, 2.2]). These results highlight the significance of walking as a preventative measure during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Limits imposed to prevent the spread of disease should take into account efforts to encourage physical exercise. To help their patients improve their physical and mental health, primary care doctors might evaluate their patients’ walking habits and then conduct brief interventions.

Source: jabfm.org/content/35/5/897