The Effect of Pre-Quarantine Physical Activity on Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms during the COVID-19 Lockdown in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 22;18(15):7771. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18157771.


The outbreak of COVID-19 and the changes to normal societal function and in particular quarantine has increased mental distress in many nations. A survey of 22,112 COVID-19-negative quarantined participants in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (age: 18-40 years, 42.6%; 40-60 years, 53.3%; over 60 years, 4.1%; mass, 78.9 ± 14.8 kg; stature, 167 ± 8.7 cm) were assessed for depressive symptoms using the online Beck Depression Inventory self-report questionnaire. The relationship between pre-quarantine physical activity and mental health and wellbeing during lockdown has been investigated. A significant difference in body mass index (BMI) between active and inactive participants (p = 0.03) was observed; with females also recording a 3% higher BMI than males. All participants showed a decrease in mental health compared to pre-quarantine. However, pre-quarantine inactivity was found to result in a greater negative impact on mental health and well-being than those active pre-quarantine (p < 0.01). The sedentary population had a 4-fold greater incidence of mild-depression than the active population. This suggests that activity level plays an important role in shielding people from anxiety and stress, whilst it builds mental strength in individuals that can be called upon in trying and difficult situations. Nevertheless, pre-quarantine activity levels did not lead to any significant change in levels of extreme depression in the sample population.

Keywords: BDI; COVID-19; KSA; depression; physical activity; physical inactivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quarantine
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Young Adult