To contain the recent COVID-19 outbreak, restrictions have been imposed, which has limited outdoor activity. These physical behavior changes can have serious health implications, but there is little objective information quantifying these changes. This study aimed to estimate the change in physical behavior levels during full lockdown conditions using objective data collected from a thigh-worn activity monitor. Data used were from 6492 individuals in the 1970 British Cohort Study, collected between 2016 and 2018. Using walking bout characteristics, days were classified as either "indoor only" (n = 861), "indoor and exercise" (n = 167), and "outdoor active" (n = 31 934). When compared to "outdoor active" days, “indoor only” days had 6590 fewer steps per day (2320 vs 8876, p < 0.001), a longer sedentary time (1.5 h, p < 0.001), longer lying time (1.4 h, p < 0.001) and shorter standing (1.9 h, p < 0.001) and stepping (1.3 h, p < 0.001) times. The "indoor and exercise" days had a smaller number of steps compared to "outdoor active" (7932 vs 8876, p < 0.05). There is a strong relationship between reduced daily stepping, and increased sedentary time, with a range of poor health outcomes. This has important implications for public health policy and messaging during pandemics.


© 2021 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Cite as

Speirs, C., Granat, M., Stamatakis, E. & Hamer, M. 2021, 'Estimating changes in physical behavior during lockdowns using accelerometry-based simulations in a large UK cohort', Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 31(12), pp. 2221-2229. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.14032

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Last updated: 03 September 2022
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