The Use of Digital Platforms for Adults' and Adolescents' Physical Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Our Life at Home): Survey Study

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Feb 1;23(2):e23389. doi: 10.2196/23389.


Background: Government responses to managing the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted the way individuals were able to engage in physical activity. Digital platforms are a promising way to support physical activity levels and may have provided an alternative for people to maintain their activity while at home.

Objective: This study aimed to examine associations between the use of digital platforms and adherence to the physical activity guidelines among Australian adults and adolescents during the COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions in April and May 2020.

Methods: A national online survey was distributed in May 2020. Participants included 1188 adults (mean age 37.4 years, SD 15.1; 980/1188, 82.5% female) and 963 adolescents (mean age 16.2 years, SD 1.2; 685/963, 71.1% female). Participants reported demographic characteristics, use of digital platforms for physical activity over the previous month, and adherence to moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) and muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE) guidelines. Multilevel logistic regression models examined differences in guideline adherence between those who used digital platforms (ie, users) to support their physical activity compared to those who did not (ie, nonusers).

Results: Digital platforms include streaming services for exercise (eg, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook); subscriber fitness programs, via an app or online (eg, Centr and MyFitnessPal); facilitated online live or recorded classes, via platforms such as Zoom (eg, dance, sport training, and fitness class); sport- or activity-specific apps designed by sporting organizations for participants to keep up their skills (eg, TeamBuildr); active electronic games (eg, Xbox Kinect); and/or online or digital training or racing platforms (eg, Zwift, FullGaz, and Rouvy). Overall, 39.5% (469/1188) of adults and 26.5% (255/963) of adolescents reported using digital platforms for physical activity. Among adults, MVPA (odds ratio [OR] 2.0, 95% CI 1.5-2.7), MSE (OR 3.3, 95% CI 2.5-4.5), and combined (OR 2.7, 95% CI 2.0-3.8) guideline adherence were higher among digital platform users relative to nonusers. Adolescents' MVPA (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.3-4.3), MSE (OR 3.1, 95% CI 2.1-4.4), and combined (OR 4.3, 95% CI 2.1-9.0) guideline adherence were also higher among users of digital platforms relative to nonusers.

Conclusions: Digital platform users were more likely than nonusers to meet MVPA and MSE guidelines during the COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions in April and May 2020. Digital platforms may play a critical role in helping to support physical activity engagement when access to facilities or opportunities for physical activity outside the home are restricted.

Keywords: COVID-19; digital health; moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity; muscle-strengthening exercise; online platforms.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • COVID-19*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobile Applications
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Pandemics
  • Resistance Training*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Media*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Video Games*
  • Webcasts as Topic*
  • Young Adult