COVID-19 and its impact on physical activity behaviour

A father teaches his daughter how to ride a bike along a country road.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

COVID-19 and its impact on health behavior: Predicting physical distancing and physical activity in a representative sample of adult Canadians

Team members

  • Dr. Ryan Rhodes
  • Dr. Sam Liu
  • Dr. Alex Lithopoulos

About this project

The goal of this project was to better understand the predictors of physical activity during the pandemic, using socio-demographics and personality traits to understand differences in the responses.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers collected information from 1055 adults in Canada using an online questionnaire.

Project findings

The research team found that across people surveyed there was a decrease of 46 minutes per week in their moderate and vigorous physical activity during the first 60 days of the pandemic.


These participants were inactive before and during COVID-19 pandemic.

Unsuccessful transition

These were people who were active before the COVID-19 pandemic, but were not able to stay active after the pandemic began.


Respondents that became active after pandemic restrictions were put in place.

Breach and repair

These participants were people who were active before the pandemic and struggled when restrictions were put in place. It took some weeks to recover their physical activity routines, but eventually they were able to return to normal activity levels.

Ever active

These participants were people who were active before the pandemic began and did not struggle to continue their physical activity once public health measures were put in place.

Based on the responses, older adults were the most affected in their physical activity during the pandemic.

However, groups like parents with dependent children and dog owners’ physical activity increased. In these cases, being home more and the possibility of physical activity outdoors, like dog walking, increased the opportunity to be physically active for participants.

Web resource 

Behavioural Medicine Lab COVID-19 research web page


  1.  Rhodes, R.E., Liu, S., Lithopoulos, A., Zhang, C.Q., Garcia-Barrera, M.A. (2020). Correlates of perceived physical activity transitions during the COVID-19 pandemic among Canadian adults. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 12(4),1157-1182.