Exercise psychologist and director of the Behavioural Medicine Lab at the University of Victoria, Ryan Rhodes, emphasizes the importance of exercise despite COVID-19 restrictions. (Courtesy of the University of Victoria)

Exercise psychologist and director of the Behavioural Medicine Lab at the University of Victoria, Ryan Rhodes, emphasizes the importance of exercise despite COVID-19 restrictions. (Courtesy of the University of Victoria)

Island-based research shows 20 per cent of Canadians became inactive during COVID-19

UVic exercise psychologist emphasizes need to form exercise habits during pandemic

New research out of the University of Victoria emphasizes the importance of incorporating exercise into people’s day-to-day routines, despite COVID-19 restrictions.

Ryan Rhodes, exercise psychologist and director of the Behavioural Medicine Lab at the university, found that since the start of the pandemic Canadian adults’ moderate to vigorous physical activity has declined on average by 46 minutes per week.

Broken down, the majority (58 per cent) of adults in their study reported that their level of physical activity had changed very little. Another 15 per cent struggled during the early weeks of the pandemic, but regained their physical activity. Six per cent became more active.

READ ALSO: Canadians not getting enough light exercise during pandemic, UBC study finds

READ ALSO: UVic study finds extroverts experiencing higher stress levels during pandemic

The group Rhodes is focusing on is the final 20 per cent who reported being active pre-pandemic and have since become inactive.

“It’s particularly a concern because movement behaviours are so linked to mental health and quality of life,” he said.

As winter approaches, Rhodes suggests people form new exercise habits to help get them through the darker, colder months.

He said the best way to establish new habits is by pairing them with certain cues, such as “Every morning, I drink my coffee, and then I go for a walk.” Linking physical activity with a particular time of day can be especially helpful, Rhodes suggested.

Less helpful are cues that never really change, such as a sticky note on the fridge saying, “Get active!”

Rhodes acknowledged that people are socially deprived right now too. “If you can take a socially distant walk with a friend or join an online class with other people, you can engage both your need for social activity as well as your need for physical activity,” he said.

“It’s probably more important now than ever to do that.”

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