The following is a summary of “Relationship Between Mental and Physical Health and Walking During the COVID-19 Pandemic” published in the October 2022 issue of Family Medicine by Bonnell et al.

Quarantining, social isolation and lockdowns in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic are necessary public health measures, but they may discourage people from engaging in physical exercise. Whether or not these shifts are linked to variations in physiological or psychological well-being is little understood. About 2,024 persons receiving primary care for various chronic illnesses provided self-reported information about their demographics, health, and walking (only at follow-up) between September 2017 and December 2018 (baseline) and March 2020 and February 2021 (follow-up). In addition, patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System-29 mental and physical health summary scores were compared before and after the pandemic, and researchers looked at whether or not respondents’ perceptions of how much time they spent walking had changed. 

This correlation was evaluated using multivariate linear regression that factored in demographic, health, and geographical variables. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, 9% of the 2042 individuals reported walking more, 28% reported doing less, and 52% reported doing the same. About 1/3  of the people surveyed said they took fewer strolls because of the pandemic. There was a negative correlation between reduced or nonexistent walking and 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. 

A substantial positive association was found between increasing walking and 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. Therefore, they should consider the importance of encouraging physical activity whenever limits are imposed to prevent disease transmission. To help their patients improve their physical and mental health, primary care doctors might evaluate their patients’ walking habits and then conduct brief interventions.