Changes in Physical Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Mixed Methods Assessment

Andrew J. Corbett, Kathryn E. Wilson, Andrew Van Horn, Jessica D. Ayers, Hector Hurmuz, Athena Aktipis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020. Resulting containment protocols altered the day-to-day lives of people around the globe, impacting typical physical activity patterns. The purpose of this mixed-method study was to understand how physical activity changes occurred during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants (n = 271) completed a survey including a qualitative item asking for descriptions of how their physical activity had changed, as well as a categorical item asking whether they had become more active, stayed equally as active, or become less active during the pandemic. Qualitative responses were analyzed to identify emergent themes, and chi-squared analyses were used to compare proportional differences in themes according to self-reported physical activity classification. Analysis revealed 10 themes: (1) decreased transportation-related physical activity, (2) change in location, (3) loss of resources, (4) discrepancies between self-reported changes in activity level and description of activities, (5) increased transportation-related physical activity, (6) changes in routines, (7) adapting exercise, (8) avoiding contact, (9) changes unrelated to COVID-19, and (10) illness or injury. Significant differences existed between groups for all themes except for avoiding contact, changes unrelated to COVID-19, and injury or illness. Empowering individuals to overcome barriers may be important during a pandemic to help people maintain or increase physical activity levels. Future research should explore the continued experience of people during the COVID-19 pandemic and investigate its impact on levels of physical activity going forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Exercise Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023


  • Coronavirus
  • international
  • population
  • qualitative
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Occupational Therapy


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