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Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted individual physical activity levels. Less is known regarding how factors such as sociodemographic and built environment were associated with physical activity engagement during the pandemic. Understanding these factors is critical to informing future infectious disease mitigation policies that promote, rather than hinder physical activity. The purpose of this study was to assess predictors of physical activity levels during the beginning of the pandemic (April-June 2020), including Stay-at-Home length and orders, neighborhood safety, and sociodemographic characteristics.

Methods: Data included 517 participants who responded to an anonymous online survey. Physical activity was assessed with a modified Godin Leisure-time exercise questionnaire. We used logistic regression models to estimate unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the associations between independent variables (e.g., demographic variables, neighborhood safety, COVID Stay-at-Home order and length of time) and physical activity levels that did not meet (i.e., < 600 metabolic equivalents of task [MET]-minutes/week) or met guidelines (i.e., ≥ 600 MET-minutes/week). We used R-Studio open-source edition to clean and code data and SAS V9.4 for analyses.

Results: Most participants were 18-45 years old (58%), female (79%), Hispanic (58%), and college/post-graduates (76%). Most (70%) reported meeting physical activity guidelines. In multivariate-adjusted analyses stratified by income, in the highest income bracket (≥ $70,000) pet ownership was associated with higher odds of meeting physical activity guidelines (aOR = 2.37, 95% CI: 1.23, 4.55), but this association did not persist for other income groups. We also found lower perceived neighborhood safety was associated with significantly lower odds of meeting physical activity guidelines (aOR = 0.15, 95% CI:0.04-0.61), but only among individuals in the lowest income bracket (< $40,000). Within this lowest income bracket, we also found that a lower level of education was associated with reduced odds of meeting physical activity guidelines.

Discussion: We found that perceived neighborhood safety, education and pet ownership were associated with meeting physical activity guidelines during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but associations differed by income. These findings can inform targeted approaches to promoting physical activity during subsequent waves of COVID-19 or future pandemics.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Title

BMC public health



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Population Health and Biostatistics

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Public Health Commons



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