Insights specific to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical activity participation in New Zealand (NZ) is limited. The purpose of this study was to examine longitudinal changes in leisure-time physical activity from pre-pandemic through April 2021. Demographic characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity, deprivation, disability status) and numerous indicators of leisure-time physical activity participation were assessed in a cohort of NZ adults (n = 1854, 54.6% women) over five waves (pre-pandemic, April 2020, June 2020, September 2020, and April 2021). Repeat measures were completed for: proportion participating in any physical activity; proportion meeting aerobic physical activity recommendations; physical activity duration; number of physical activities. There was a significant (p < 0.05) decline in mean physical activity duration and number of activities during the initial lockdown period in April 2020, but the proportion participating in any physical activity and the proportion meeting physical activity recommendations remained stable. However, all four physical activity participation indicators were significantly (p < 0.05) below pre-pandemic levels in all subsequent waves. Considerable and sustained declines in NZ adult leisure-time physical activity participation were evident over the first year of the pandemic. As of April 2021, physical activity participation showed limited signs of recovering to pre-pandemic levels.


This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Cite as

Wilson, O., McEwen, H., Kelly, P. & Richards, J. 2022, 'Declines in physical activity among New Zealand adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: Longitudinal analyses of five data waves from pre-pandemic through April 2021', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(7), article no: 4041. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19074041

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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