Less exercise, more bread and sweets during COVID-19 lockdown

Survey of students shows exercise decreased among younger people in Germany during the spring 2020 lockdown.

Average of 4,829 instead of 6,777 steps per day

During the spring 2020 lockdown, exercise decreased among younger people in Germany, shows a survey of students presented during the annual conference of the German Society of Cardiology (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kardiologie, DGK). In contrast, more was eaten, especially bread and sweets.

In order to investigate the effects of the lockdown on sport and eating habits as an important part of cardiovascular primary prevention, a Munich working group led by Dr. Julius Steffen and Prof. Dr. Stefan Brunner conducted an online survey among students at several large Bavarian universities. Among other things, they were asked about the type and duration of physical activity before, during and after the lockdown, as well as changes in diet. In addition, the pedometer data of the 1,940 participants collected via smartwatch and smartphone were evaluated.

In terms of subjective perception, 44.5% of the participants had decreased their physical activity since the introduction of the lockdown, while 32.8% stated that they had increased their activity. Sport was mostly limited to running, cycling and muscle training as well as yoga. It could be observed that participants who were more active in sports often maintained their level. The pedometer data then provided an objective view of the changes in exercise habits. Before the lockdown, the participants walked an average of 6,777 steps per day, but during the lockdown they only walked an average of 4,829.

Direct effects on cardiovascular health cannot be deduced

Eating habits also changed: 31.2% of the study participants said they ate more and 16.8% even less than before the lockdown. The greater amount of food was mainly driven by the consumption of bread and sweets.

The lockdown measures thus seem to have a strong influence on sport and eating habits - at least among students. "Direct effects on cardiovascular health cannot be derived from this. However, they should be considered in the future when imposing restrictions to combat the pandemic," say the study authors.

1. Press Release. Alteration of Physical Activity and Nutrition Behaviour During COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown in Young Adults (COLA Trial) Dr. Julius Steffen, Prof. Dr. Stefan Brunner, München. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kardiologie –Herz und Kreislaufforschung e.V. (DGK). https://dgk.org/daten/steffen.pdf
2. Huber, B.C., Steffen, J., Schlichtiger, J. et al. Alteration of physical activity during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in young adults. J Transl Med 18, 410 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-020-02591-7

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