1. The number of adults in Korea achieving adequate weekly physical activity decreased significantly during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
2. This trend was specifically more pronounced in females, older adults, participants living in urban settings, those with higher BMI, and people with a history of depression.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Restrictions that existed during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, such as the closure of sports facilities and swimming pools, were known to impact the ability of many people to continue with their typical exercise routines. In this cross-sectional study, researchers aimed to assess trends in physical activity in Korea from 2009 to 2021; prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers used the Korea Community Health Survey to collect data on 2,748,585 Korean adults. Physical activity was quantified via the mean metabolic equivalent (MET) score, with physical activity assessed based on WHO guidelines, which define adequate exercise as a minimum of 600 MET-min/ week. The number of people achieving adequate weekly physical activity decreased significantly during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Prior to this, the national rates of physical activity were stable. From 2017-2019, 36.0% of adults achieved sufficient weekly physical activity (95% CI, 35.9% to 36.1%). This decreased to 30% in 2020 (95% CI, 29.8% to 30.2%) and 29.7% in 2021 (95% CI, 29.5% to 29.9%). This trend was most pronounced for people with a normal BMI (β difference,−12.5; 95% CI, −13.4 to −11.7), a history of depression (β difference, −13.7; 95% CI, −19.1 to −8.4), females (β difference, −16.8; 95% CI, −17.6 to −16.0), and people living in urban settings (β difference, −21.2; 95% CI, −22.2 to −20.2). In summary, findings suggest there may be a negative correlation between the COVID-19 pandemic and physical activity. This demonstrates yet another health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and may be used to inform future policymaking and counseling for at-risk groups should another similar crisis occur.
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