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Brits report lowest levels of physical health and highest weight gain during pandemic


An international team of researchers, including University of Wolverhampton’s Professor Tracey Devonport, has found that people’s physical activity levels, wellbeing, as well as sleeping and eating habits, have changed around the world during to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Participants from the UK reported the lowest levels of physical health and highest increase in weight, in the international survey.

Over 1,000 participants were surveyed in total from the UK, South Korea, Philippines, Latin America, Spain, North America and Italy. All of these countries, or country groups, experienced lockdown measures in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor of Applied Sport and Exercise Science Tracey Devonport said: “Our survey asked participants to rate their perceived physical and mental health ‘over the last week’.

“Our analyses revealed significant differences regarding perceived physical and mental health, as well as changes in health behaviours during the pandemic by levels of physical activity and country of residence.”

The results showed that Latin American participants reported being the most affected by emotional problems. While those in South Korea indicated they were significantly less affected by personal or emotional problems and Filipino participants reported higher sleep and eating scores compared to the other countries.

Finnish respondents reported significantly higher ratings for physical health in comparison to those in the UK who were the lowest for physical health.

Physical activity levels were significantly linked to each country’s perception of wellbeing. The analysis also revealed significant differences across physical activity levels in four established age categories.

"Our findings indicate that irrespective of country of residence or age, participants reporting reduced physical activity typically experienced poorer physical and mental health along with diminished wellbeing," said Professor Devonport. “Physical activity is important as it’s associated with better physical health, along with increased wellbeing and sleep. We saw that those participants with the highest increase in physical activity reported significantly higher increase in sleep and lower weight gain.

"As lockdowns and special measures continue, our findings highlight the importance of exercise in maintaining good physical and mental health. As such, we encourage individuals to find ways of incorporating physical activity into their day where possible."


The University of Wolverhampton completed the study in collaboration with the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, the University of Northampton, the University of the Philippines, Philippines, University of Southern Queensland, Australia, Universidad Pública de Navarra, Spain, Jeju National University, South Korea, University of Chieti-Pescara, Chieti, Italy.

The study has recently been featured in 'Frontiers in Psychology', the largest journal in the field of psychology.


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