Impact of covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions on employment status, physical activity, and sedentary behavior

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Background. North Americans report insufficient moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and ample sedentary behaviors (SBs), suggesting possible barriers to an active lifestyle. This study compared self-reported MVPA and SB before and during COVID-19 “Stay-at-Home” restrictions as a potential barrier across North America. Methods: Questionnaires were distributed from 21 April to 9 May 2020. ANOVAs compared data overall and by group (age, sex, race, income, education, employment status). Results: During restrictions, 51.4% (n = 687) of the 1336 responses (991 female, 1187 Caucasian, 634 18–29 years) shifted to work from home and 12.1% (n = 162) lost their job. Overall, during restrictions, 8.3% (n = 110) fewer reported work-related MVPA (−178.6 ± 20.9 min/week). Similarly, 28.0% (n = 374) fewer reported travel-related MVPA, especially females and younger age groups. While the 7.3% (n = 98) fewer reporting recreational MVPA was not statistically significant (−30.4 ± 11.5 min/week), there was an increase in SB (+94.9 ± 4.1 min/week) in all groups, except the oldest age group (70+ years). Locomotive activities and fitness class remained the predominant MVPA mode. Of those reportedly using facilities (68%; n = 709) before COVID, 31.3% (n = 418) would not return due to it “being unsafe”. Conclusion: While barriers related to pandemic restrictions had a negative short-term impact on MVPA and SB in North America, the long-term impact is unknown.