Physical activity, mental health and wellbeing of adults within and during the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, in the United Kingdom and New Zealand

James Faulkner, Wendy O'Brien, beth stuart, Lee Stoner, John Batten, Daniel Wadsworth, Chris Askew, Claire Badenhorst, Erin Byrd, Nick Draper, Catherine Elliot, Simon Fryer, Mike Hamlin, John Jakeman, Kelly Mackintosh, Melitta McNarry, Andrew Mitchelmore, Helen Ryan-Stewart, Zoe Saynor, Mia SchaumbergEmily Spiegelhalter, Keeron Stone, Danielle Lambrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Physical activity (PA) participation was substantially reduced at the start of the COVID‐ 19 pandemic. The purpose of this study was to assess the association between PA, mental health, and wellbeing during and following the easing of COVID‐19 restrictions in the United Kingdom (UK) and New Zealand (NZ). In this study, 3363 adults completed online surveys within 2–6 weeks of initial COVID‐19 restrictions (April/May 2020) and once restrictions to human movement had been eased. Outcome measures included the International Physical Activity Questionnaire Short‐ Form, Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale‐9 (mental health) and World Health Organisation‐5 Wellbeing Index. There were no differences in PA, mental health or wellbeing between timepoints (p > 0.05). Individuals engaging in moderate or high volume of PA had significantly better mental health (−1.1 and −1.7 units, respectively) and wellbeing (11.4 and 18.6 units, respectively) than individuals who engaged in low PA (p < 0.001). Mental health was better once COVID‐19 restrictions were eased (p < 0.001). NZ had better mental health and wellbeing than the UK (p < 0.001). Participation in moderate‐to‐high volumes of PA was associated with better mental health and wellbeing, both during and following periods of COVID‐19 containment, compared to participation in low volumes of PA. Where applicable, during the current or future pandemic(s), moderate‐to‐high volumes of PA should be encouraged.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1792
Pages (from-to)1792
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2022


  • Coronavirus disease
  • Depression
  • Exercise
  • Lifestyle behaviour change
  • Lockdown
  • Pandemic

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