Regular physical activity is a strategy that is effective in the physical management of long term conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic, led to disruption of physical activity routines for many people with long term conditions. It is important, to understand the experiences of people with long term conditions regarding physical activity during COVID-19 to enable future identification of strategies to mitigate the impact of restrictions on health.

To explore perceptions and experiences of people with long term conditions of the impact of the UK Government physical distancing restrictions on their physical activity participation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A qualitative study, with in depth videoconference semi-structured interviews were conducted between January and April 2022, with 26 adults living with at least one long term condition in the UK. Data were managed in analytical matrices within Excel and data analysis was conducted using thematic analysis.

Two main themes were developed, explaining how participants managed their physical activity during COVID19 lockdowns, and based on those experiences, what they considered should be in place should another lockdown occur:1) COVID-19 and physical activity: Losses, opportunities and adapting to new formats; and 2) Micro, meso, and macro contexts: creating the right conditions for physical activity support in future pandemics.

This study provides information on how people with long term conditions managed their condition during the COVID-19 pandemic and generates new understanding of how physical activity routines changed. These findings will be used to inform stakeholder engagement meetings with individuals with long term conditions and local, regional, and national policy makers, to co-produce recommendations that will help people living with long term conditions remain active during and after COVID-19 and other pandemics.


© 2023 Ambrosio et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite as

Ambrosio, L., Morris, J., Compton, E. & Portillo, M. 2023, 'Physical activity and mental health experiences of people living with long term conditions during COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative study', PLoS ONE, 18(7), article no: e0285785. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0285785

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Last updated: 18 July 2023
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