What the Pandemic Did to Workouts


By Alan Mozes HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) — In the face of pandemic-mandated gym closings and significant limits on movement outside the home, a new survey suggests that Americans are spending more time exercising while dialing back the intensity of their workouts.

The survey of nearly 900 Americans across the country, conducted between May and June, used as its benchmark World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations that all adults between 18 and 64 get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.

“The COVID-19 restrictions imposed early in the pandemic created a unique, unprecedented environment, including restricted access to resources and, in some cases, increased unstructured time,” said study author Mary Stenson, an associate professor of exercise science and sport studies at College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University in St. Joseph, Minn. “We were curious how these changes might impact physical activity patterns in the U.S. during the shutdowns, but also if these shifts would remain in the long term.”

In Stenson’s study, more than 85% of those polled were women and nearly 90% were white, with an average age of almost 39.

The findings: By June, just over 60% of those surveyed said they were meeting the WHO threshold, representing a nearly 8% jump from pre-pandemic routines. Investigators also found a more than 11% jump in the number of people who were actually exceeding that threshold.

The number of days per week spent exercising also went up notably, from 3.75 days to more than 4.25 days.

Time spent per exercise session, however, stayed more or less stable, at just under an hour. And exercise intensity decreased “significantly,” the researchers found, with respondents attributing the drop to an inability to access gym equipment and classes and a shift to more outdoor walking.

“The increased activity and lower intensity were in line with what we expected,” said Stenson, who said the findings likely reflect the loss of performance “accountability” that comes with the cancellation of group exercise, organized sports and trainer sessions.

But Stenson said she was surprised by an additional observation that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they were likely or very likely to stick with their pandemic exercise habits post-pandemic. And nearly 94% of those who had increased their activity levels since March said they planned to continue with their new routines over the coming year.



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