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Source: Massey University

The Government has recognised the importance of exercise on people’s health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown.

You may have noticed a surge in the number of people walking and taking on exercise in your neighbourhood during the COVID-19 lockdown, or you may be getting more exercise yourself.

You are not alone, and researchers are asking people to participate in a global survey to investigate the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on physical activity and wellbeing.

The survey is part of a study initiated and designed by the University of Winchester, United Kingdom. Massey University researchers, Dr Wendy O’Brien – the New Zealand lead – and Dr Claire Badenhorst, are coordinating the New Zealand arm of the study with Lincoln University’s Dr Catherine Elliot and Associate Professor Mike Hamlin, and Professor Nick Draper of Canterbury University. 

The researchers are conducting an online survey aimed at understanding the impact of COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the New Zealand Government on individuals’ physical activity and wellbeing. 

Under the current Level 4 lockdown in place in New Zealand, the Government has recognised the importance of exercise for both physical and mental health by recommending that, other than essential tasks like grocery shopping, medical care and essential work, exercise is the only reason individuals should be leaving their homes.

Dr O’Brien says there is overwhelming evidence for the physiological and psychological benefits of physical activity. “People seem to be taking this on board during a stressful time, as there appears to be substantially increased walking and cycling in many neighbourhoods, and social media and other online platforms are flooded with online exercise sessions, exercise challenges and fun workouts the whole family can enjoy.”

Dr O’Brien says the information from the survey may help New Zealand to be better prepared to support people in achieving and maintaining optimal health and wellbeing “if we were to encounter such events in the future”.

The results will also give information on the demographics of physical activity change and whether the physical activity message is taken up by all of society or just a certain few (for example, those with good access to internet, or individuals in certain age groups). Such information will be useful for planning future physical activity interventions at such times.

“We will be assessing physical activity and wellbeing at different alert levels and further into the future over the next 18 months. From these follow ups we hope to understand whether behaviours towards physical activity change or remain the same once we return to ‘normality’, not just in terms of how much individuals are doing, but also what they’re doing and why.

“For example, newly discovered online platforms might become a preference for some individuals because of the convenience and flexibility they provide”, says Dr O’Brien.

The anonymous survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and is open to anyone living in New Zealand who is 18 years and older. The researchers are looking for as many participants as possible to take part in the survey, which you can find here