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How has exercise changed during COVID lockdowns?

Many of us have been moving less since the pandemic began. But some, including many older men and women, seem to be moving more.

The findings have not yet been peer-reviewed, but they add to a mounting body of evidence from around the globe that the coronavirus is remaking how we move, although not necessarily in the ways we may have anticipated.

This new study, which has been posted at a biology preprint site awaiting peer-review, researchers at University College London turned to data from a free, activity-tracking smartphone app available in the United Kingdom and some other nations. The app uses GPS and similar technologies to track how many minutes people had spent walking, running or cycling, and allows users to accumulate exercise points that can be used for monetary or other rewards.

They found, unsurprisingly, that almost everyone’s exercise habits changed when the pandemic started. An overwhelming majority worked out less, especially once full lockdowns began — regardless of their gender or socioeconomic status. The drop was most marked among those people who had been the most active before the pandemic and among people under the age of about 40 (who were not always the same people).

“While it is no surprise that the lockdowns disrupted people’s exercise patterns,” Dr. Fisher said, “we cannot just assume everyone will bounce back once restrictions are lifted. We need to help people to get back to doing regular exercise, within the limits of ongoing pandemic restrictions, of course.”

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