Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour: A Qualitative Study in a Canadian City
1.1. Impact of COVID-19 on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour
1.2. Adaptation and Behaviour Change
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Study Design
2.2. Sampling and Recruitment
2.3. Data Collection
2.4. Data Analysis
3.1. Theme #1: Disruption to Daily Routines
3.1.1. Adaptations to Daily Routines
“I had to learn how to create my own structure and that was a little difficult. I tried to create normalcy by [going to the library], and then the library shut down… now I work from home, so a lot of my schedule is constructed by work. And honestly, I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t working. That’s given me the structure to at least wake up a bit early”.
“I start my workday now earlier than I used to. I still work really long days and the work-life balance is not very good right now. it’s hard to stop work at 5:00… it was getting really bad where I am working from 7:00 AM till midnight with very little break. Now I’ve tried to put more restrictions on my work but we’re getting to take the kids for more walks throughout the day and play outside when I have breaks between meetings”.
“… having nothing to do… sitting idly... watching television, on your mobile phone… life has stopped”.
3.1.2. Unanticipated Benefits of COVID-19
“Before the pandemic started, my husband and I worked at the same office, but we had to commute. We have two kids in daycare, both under the age of five… We would rush to get the house ready and get everybody out the door every morning with super stress and scrambled to drop the kids off to daycare for 7:45. Then we would drive an hour to work. Then I would work like crazy and work through my lunch hours and would never have a moment to breathe… we’ve gained this time from not commuting”.
“I was in New Brunswick for school, so I had to come back [to Calgary]. So that was a bit of a shit show over there at school. But when I came back, honestly, I’ve kind of been enjoying it… I’ve been doing a lot of homework… I’m doing four classes right now. I’m getting lots done”.
3.2. Theme #2: Changes in Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour
3.2.1. Disruptions to Physical Activity
“Probably the biggest thing is I do go to the gym just about every day, so my gym closed… I was looking at alternatives to keep active, but I did miss my weights. I don’t own any heavy weights and usually I like the circuit machinery at the gym for a part of my workout. Not having access to that definitely altered my workouts considerably”.
“I really notice my upper muscles above my knee are getting weaker”.
“… at school, you’re moving a lot throughout the day… here I sit inside for a couple hours, then I go for my two hour period of exercise… then I’m sitting inside again for the rest of the day”.
“… we watch a lot more Netflix than we ever have… We’ve probably doubled… you can watch one, two, three, four, and five, next thing you know it’s eight hours later”.
“I have an Apple Watch. It tracks your steps and active movement. It also registers when you’re going up a level and it’s considered true exercise. I seem to be getting more exercise credit than I was at the office. I’m obviously crushing myself slightly harder on those longer walks, or on the bike rides versus walking from meeting to meeting. I think that’s good”.
3.2.2. Adaptations to Physical Activity Routines
“I don’t think I’ll go back to yoga class anymore because I discovered a new way to do yoga without spending money for gym and yoga class”.
“I took up running around the block... the first couple of times I was huffing and puffing like an old man, but… then after a couple of times, that particular route seemed like it felt easy, right? It’s night and day difference [from running inside] because you have different types of terrain, weather and wind patterns. You know what I mean?... It gets you”.
“I found [yard work] was the most significant substitute for my usual gym… I found myself more sore or felt like I got a really good workout in from doing yard work more than any of my gym workouts”.
“It’s a good reset making you realize that you don’t need to go to the gym to exercise... in Calgary, we can go to the mountains, I can go to Nose Hill Park, or I can bike around”.
“Exercise is important. If we stay on the course and watch screens, [it] makes us grumpy. [My kids and I] learned we need to walk or move our body to stay mentally healthy. Because we didn’t need to try if did everyday routine, my kids were moving. But now we need to play to move our body.”
“… now I am finding the time to slow down and take the time to do exercise I enjoy more now”.
“I use [the] pool for aquacise because I have issues with my knee. I have osteoarthritis, so it’s easier to do those kinds of exercises for cardio... missing the swimming… I really miss that”.
3.3. Theme #3: Balancing Health
3.3.1. Navigating Different Dimensions of Health during COVID-19
“I’m certainly more tired during the day than I was before. I think its part mentally tired as well. When you get tired, you can be short with people… when you’re going to work every day and constantly reminding people of the distancing thing. Constantly washing your hands, and probably 10 times a day more than you would have in the past. Every time you touch something… you wonder if this is it”.
“Emotionally or mentally, it’s definitely not without its challenges. I find myself getting mad at the kids more because they’re not being quiet enough for me to work from home... I feel really guilty as a mom… that stress weighs on me a lot… Mental wellbeing I’m not quite where I want to be and it isn’t without its roller coaster. But the physical side I’d say we’re doing really well”.
“I think the social portion of it… playing badminton… you’re meeting people… Obviously the gyms are opened up to a certain extent, but there’s a lot of people who are scared... I don’t see [my friends] anymore… My overall health hasn’t been [affected], during this COVID timeframe… I do miss some of the social aspects of what I had before”.
3.3.2. COVID-19: A Time for Re-Balancing
“It’s made me really rethink, why do we feel like we need to be busy all the time? It’s made me rethink of how much I keep myself occupied even during non-quarantine times. When I go back, am I going to value rest? I have to. It’s going to make me really value rest, and probably make myself less busy”.
“All in all, we actually prefer this… the mornings are low stress… We don’t have to dress up for work anymore. The kids don’t have to get dressed up to go to daycare so there’s a lot of days where they’re left in their pajamas and that’s okay with us. It usually consists a little bit better of family time in the morning, some snuggles, some TV watching… We’re able to really enjoy cooking and preparing meals as a family. Bedtime is less rushed it feels we’re able to breathe a little bit more and enjoy time in our house”.
“Although I’ve gotten laid off as I’m sure many others have, I’m financially able to do whatever I want… most people aren’t as fortunate… I’ve had [the] ability to be flexible and not be stressed or concerned about things others would be”.
“I know that we’re maybe the exception versus the rule... a lot of people maybe don’t have the same access to sporting equipment or two parents that are still bringing in an income. We’re very aware that we’re benefiting where most people aren’t and not taking that for granted”.
3.4. Theme #4: Family Life
Challenges for Families
“The biggest challenge is still trying to be a parent while working… not only am I trying to balance a very demanding work where I’m on phone calls or video chats for hours on hours, I have young kids that can’t be left to their own devices all the time… I’m noticing a regression in my children since they’ve been taken out a daycare, so that’s a personal struggle that I’m dealing with”.
“We’ve got to tell them to get out. “Don’t you miss your friends?” No, they see everyone every single day… They look at the computer screen with six different people on there, and everybody’s talking as though they’re in the same room. And they’ll do that for hours on end”
“It is difficult with the kids at home, but I wouldn’t do the latter [go back to her pre-COVID-19 lifestyle]. The work-life balance was really hard. Now that we’ve settled into a newer normal, we’ve got our routines figured out”.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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Petersen, J.A.; Naish, C.; Ghoneim, D.; Cabaj, J.L.; Doyle-Baker, P.K.; McCormack, G.R. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour: A Qualitative Study in a Canadian City. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 4441. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094441
Petersen JA, Naish C, Ghoneim D, Cabaj JL, Doyle-Baker PK, McCormack GR. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour: A Qualitative Study in a Canadian City. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(9):4441. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094441Chicago/Turabian Style
Petersen, Jennie A., Calli Naish, Dalia Ghoneim, Jason L. Cabaj, Patricia K. Doyle-Baker, and Gavin R. McCormack. 2021. "Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour: A Qualitative Study in a Canadian City" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 9: 4441. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094441