Factors associated with physical activity reduction in Swedish older adults during the first COVID-19 outbreak: a longitudinal population-based study

Eur Rev Aging Phys Act. 2022 Apr 1;19(1):9. doi: 10.1186/s11556-022-00287-z.


Background: Physical activity (PA) decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among older adults, potentially leading to adverse consequences for their health. However, factors associated with reductions of PA during the pandemic have not been examined in a population-based sample of older adults. Thus, the aim of this study was to explore the association of pre-pandemic physical, mental, social and lifestyle factors with reductions in PA in older adults during the first wave of COVID-19, and whether the associations differed by age and sex.

Methods: A population-based sample of 624 participants aged 65-99 years were identified from the Swedish National study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen (SNAC-K) COVID19 Study. Information on pre-pandemic factors was collected through clinical examinations, interviews, and self-administered questionnaires in 2016-2019. Changes in light and intense PA during the first wave of the pandemic (May-September 2020) were self-reported. Data were analyzed using multiple logistic regression models, stratified by age (<70 vs. >80 years) and sex.

Results: There was an association between pre-pandemic levels of higher depressive symptom burden (Odds Ratio (OR): 2.6, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.1-6.4, <70 years), and impaired balance (OR: 1.7, 95% CI: 1.0-2.8, >80 years old) with reductions in light-intensity PA. Furthermore, the presence of musculoskeletal disease (OR: 1.8, 95% CI: 1.1-2.9, <70 years; OR: 2.3, 95% CI: 1.2-4.4, men), moderate/high levels of neuroticism (OR: 1.6, 95% CI: 1.0-2.6, <70 years; OR: 2.2, 95% CI: 1.3-3.5, women), and poor levels of social support (OR: 2.2, 95% CI: 1.2-4.3, >80 years) were related to reductions in higher-intensity PA. Those who were current smokers (OR: 0.3, 95% CI: 0.1-0.8, <70 years; OR: 0.2, 95% CI: 0.06-0.7, women), or had impaired balance (OR: 0.4, 95% CI: 0.2-0.8, >80 years) were less likely to reduce their levels of higher-intensity PA.

Conclusions: For future pandemics or waves of COVID-19, development of strategies is warranted for older individuals with psychiatric- or physical illness/dysfunction, as well as those with poor social support to counteract reductions in physical activities.

Keywords: COVID-19; Epidemiology; Older adults; Physical Activity; Population-based study; Risk factors.