Study analyzes if older adults are exercising less because of COVID-19

Nurse researcher Siobhan McMahon says findings will inform best practices for exercise during pandemics

June 30, 2020
Given that older adults have the most significant risk for adverse outcomes from COVID-19, they continue to be a primary target for prevention efforts such as staying at home and physical distancing. A nurse researcher from the University of Minnesota is studying whether these efforts influence other health-related behaviors, such as physical activity.

“There is a need to evaluate whether physical activity levels among older adults change during COVID-19 prevention efforts, as a basis for informing the adaptation of physical activity promotion efforts and interventions now and in future pandemics,” said Associate Professor Siobhan McMahon, PhD, MPH, APRN, GNP-BC, who is the lead investigator. The study, Evaluating the effects of COVID-19 Mitigation and Containment Efforts on Older Adults’ Wellbeing and Physical Activity, recently received funding from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

“We hope findings generated in this study will inform best practices to support and promote older adults’ physical activity during this pandemic and other public health crises.”

 - Siobhan McMahon

Physical activity is essential for older adults’ health and safety. People who are older than 65 years should perform strengthening exercises at least twice per week, balance-challenging exercises at least three times per week and endurance exercise (like walking) at least 150 minutes per week, according to national guidelines.

The pilot study will ask 120 participants about their physical activity via surveys and in-depth interviews over the course of six months. They will also be asked about their sleep, social support, communication with others and safety practices. Findings are expected to be complete in 12 months.

“We hope findings generated in this study will inform best practices to support and promote older adults’ physical activity during this pandemic and other public health crises,” said McMahon.