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Physical Activity Impact on Psychological Health During COVID-19 Pandemic

Introduction

Pandemics and health management strategies may have significant effects on daily living. The recent wave of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has resulted in significant disruptions in the way of life of individuals (Lesser and Nienhuis, 2020). For instance, most governments worldwide issued restrictions on people’s movements to curb the spread of this virus. Other management guidelines of COVID-19 encourage people to maintain social distancing and stay at home to reduce the possibility of getting infected.

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Furthermore, people are reluctant to go out of their houses due to the fear of acquiring this disease. These restrictions on persons’ free movement have caused severe impairments to physical exercise, which is an essential strategy for relieving stress for optimal health (Maugeri et al., 2020). Individuals are unable to freely engage in physical activity, which has detrimental to their mental well-being (Lesser and Nienhuis, 2020). People’s psychological health is worsened by excessive information, boredom, a decrease in the family’s economic status, and uncertainty of the disease outcomes associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Therefore, this research aims to determine the impact of physical activity on psychological health during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This analysis is vital in understanding how people’s physical activities have changed and how it has impacted their mental health. The research questions of this research are the effect of COVID-19 on physical activity and the impact of physical activity on psychological health during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Definition of Terms

Several terms are used in this research study and whose understanding is important. First, physical activity refers to any motions produced by the skeletal muscles in the body that result in energy use. It includes activities such as walking, running, active recreation, dance, or house cleaning. Second, physiological health refers to an individual’s mental well-being whereby they recognize their potential, manage daily stressors effectively, and make significant contributions to society. Third, COVID refers to a viral disease caused by the coronavirus of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which results in mild to moderate disruptions to the respiratory status of individuals. This disease is spread via contact with saliva or mucus from sneezing. This disease has had significant impairments to the mode of living of the populations.

Literature Review

Several research articles have been conducted to determine the impacts of the COVID-19 disease on individuals’ mental well-being. One such study was done in Italy by Maugeri et al. (2020) to identify the impact of physical activity on psychological health during the Pandemic. This study also aimed to explore the changes in exercising that accompanied self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus. This study involved the weekly collection of data on physical activity through activities such as walking 2524 subjects who completed an updated version of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. The psychological status of the participants was evaluated using the Psychological General Well Being Index. The results of this study show an overall reduction in the participants’ physical activity due to restrictions on movement (Maugeri et al., 2020). Furthermore, physical inactivity was linked to poor mental health, especially in the male participants. The findings of this study are strong due to the large sample size used and the effective validation of the data collected using the standard tools. The researchers called for increased exercise to enhance physical and mental health during this Pandemic.

Numerous assessments have been conducted to ascertain COVID-19’s impact. Lesser and Nienhuis (2020) evaluated how the epidemic’s measures changed physical activity behavior and well-being among Canadians. The results indicated significant variations in the dormant population’s health outcomes between those who were more active, the same, or less active (Lesser and Nienhuis, 2020). However, it was not the same in the physically dynamic individuals. Inactive respondents who consumed extra hours on outdoor activities experienced reduced anxiety than their counterparts with a limited workouts period. Public health controls showed substantial differences in lively and dormant participants. The increased somatic exercise was linked to healthy outcomes in less active persons.

A systematic review also supports the reduction of physical activity secondary to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Violant-Holz et al. (2020) aimed to analyze how engaging in physical activity affected the psychological health of the adult population. The results of the 15 eligible databases in this study showed an association between physical activity and anxiety, depression, and social isolation in adults during COVID-19. The rates of exercising also lowered as a consequence of the restrictions on movement during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Outdoor exercising was greatly reduced due to lockdown measures (Violant-Holz et al., 2020). This literature review showed that physical activity benefited from reducing stress, lowering somatization symptoms, and improving the quality of sleep in adults.

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Moreover, the researchers found an increased practice of sedentary lifestyles, which had negative effects on the psychological health of individuals. Individuals had poor eating and sleeping habits during this pandemic which disrupted their mental health (Violant-Holz et al., 2020). Another important finding of importance from this systematic review was that the levels of anxiety and depression among the nurses and physicians increased during this period. Physical activity was suggested as one way people can adopt to enhance their optimal psychological integrity.

Physical activity is an avenue for reducing coronavirus’s detrimental effects on adolescents’ mental wellness during the COVID-19 Pandemic. A study was conducted in the United Kingdom by Wright et al. (2021) to examine the impacts of exercising as a protective factor against coronavirus fear among adolescents. The study included 165 male and female participants who completed an online questionnaire. Different questionnaires were used to determine various aspects of the participants, including exercising, stress levels, the overall perception of well-being, and alleged energy levels. Then, a separate multiple linear regression analysis of the findings was conducted by the scholars to predict the mental wellness outcomes of the participants.

It was observed that the fear of the high prevalence of coronavirus disease in adolescents resulted in high-stress levels, anxiety, depression, and a low energy state. Physical activity was identified as a protective factor against those adverse mental health outcomes (Wright et al., 2021). Additionally, the analysis showed that stress undermined the exercising ability of the adolescents who took part in the research. However, contrary to the other research results, the findings of this study showed that physical activity was not associated with anxiety in individuals. This was hypothesized to be caused by the differing perception of anxiety with or without pandemics. Furthermore, this study found no significant differences in exercising between male and female participants, unlike other studies. The findings of this study are limited due to the cross-sectional study design used, which does not necessarily indicate causation (Wright et al., 2021). Therefore, this research study aims to test the hypothesis that physical activity positively influences individuals’ psychological health during COVID.

Methods

Participants

The population of interest for this study is all the individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic somehow. This disease erupted in the Chinese province of Wuhan and has since spread worldwide to virtually all parts of the world (Puccinelli et al., 2021). This condition has directly or indirectly impacted individuals due to its significant physical, mental, economic, and social disruptions. The management plans to curb the spread of this disease have also interfered with the normal living of individuals. Countries and states worldwide have enacted laws and policies to restrict the movements and enhance the social distancing between people. These strategies have resulted in impairments in the engagement in physical activity by individuals (Maugeri et al., 2020). People are unable to access social recreation facilities, parks, and fields due to restrictions. It is imperative to study the effects of physical activity on the psychological health of the affected human beings. Hence, the population of interest in this study is all the persons whose engagement in physical activity is impaired by this pandemic.

However, it is impossible to research each individual affected by the pandemic due to the high number. This necessitates using an accessible and appropriate sample of individuals from the population with the required characteristics. This study aims to incorporate a sample size of 3000 participants drawn from across different social classes. This study aims to collect data from persons over the age of 18 years. Both male and female participants are targeted to identify the relationship between age, physical activity, and psychological health. Additionally, the study plans to determine the height and weight of the participants to calculate their body mass index (BMI). Information on the approximate family income of the participants is also key for comprehensive findings.

Measures/Instrumentation

Several instruments will be utilized in this study to identify the impacts of physical activity on psychological health during COVID. A questionnaire will be used to collect various information from the participants. First, the physical activity practices will be analyzed using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ), which the World Health Organization suggested in 1998. This instrument is an internationally recognized tool for data collection, and it has high internal validity (Puccinelli et al., 2021). This questionnaire provides for the classification of participants according to their physical activity practices. It contains five elements ranging from very active to inactive. Individuals will be allowed to rate themselves according to their rates of exercising during this pandemic.

Second, information on the Perceived Stress Scale will determine individuals’ perception of how stressed they have been in the past month. This questionnaire consists of a 5-point Likert scale which gives the participants a chance to rate their presumed stress levels. This scale has answers presented as never (0) to very often (5) to questions on the rate of feeling stressed in the past month. This tool is reported to have high internal validity, especially in adolescents (Puccinelli et al., 2021). Additionally, The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) will be used to determine the participants’ incidences of anxiety attacks and depression. This questionnaire consists of seven items each for anxiety and depression. The summation of the results is done, and higher overall scores indicate elevated levels of anxiety or depression in the patients.

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Procedures

The participants will be invited to participate in the study through websites, emails, and social media platforms (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). A link to the questionnaire will be shared through Google Forms for the individuals to fill. These forums will be selected because many individuals spend most of their time on these internet platforms to socialize, work, and get information following the restrictions of movements. The study’s invitation to participate in the study will be shared with the target population.

The study will ensure that it complies with the ethical and legal regulations for conducting research. Informed consent will be required of the participants before taking part in the study. They will first be required to fill out a consent form to consent to join the study before answering the questionnaires. Furthermore, individuals will be voluntarily included in the study. No forms of coercion will be used to obtain the required sample size. Nevertheless, permission to undertake the research study will be sought from the university’s institutional review board. Measures will be put in place to protect the subjects from any forms of harm. The data of the persons in the study will be made confidential and private.

Data Analysis

Effective data analysis is needed to ensure the high validity of the findings. Data will be analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software. The questionnaires will be scrutinized first to remove any questionnaires which contain missing information. The Pearson correlations will be utilized to determine the relationships between gender, age, basal metabolic index, and physical activity during this pandemic. Separate multiple linear regressions will be used to explore each mental health and well-being outcome. Data analysis is important to determine the relationships between the variables in this study.

Data Presentation

Different strategies will be used to present the findings of this study. Tables and graphical presentations will be used to portray the relationships between the variables of the study. Simple regression tables show the distribution of data from the research. Bar graphs will be used to show the differences in exercising according to age and sexes. These pictorial presentations provide a visual aid for easy interpretation of the study findings. They enable the readers to identify the cause-and-effect relationship between characters (Puccinelli et al., 2021). The results and the findings of this study will be published in reputable healthcare journals, including the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The findings will be communicated to other researchers and experts in this field through participation in local conferences on reducing the impacts of coronavirus on individuals’ mental well-being.

Conclusion

Coronavirus disease has resulted in significant disruptions in the mental well-being of individuals. Physical activity has also been reduced by the restrictions on movements t curb this pandemic. However, studies show the significance of exercising to reduce anxiety, depression, and social isolation linked with this pandemic. Individuals need to engage in adequate physical exertion for optimal health. Effective collaborations are key to reducing the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.

References

Lesser, I. A., & Nienhuis, C. P. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on physical activity behavior and well-being of Canadians. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(11), 3899. Web.

Maugeri, G., Castrogiovanni, P., Battaglia, G., Pippi, R., D’Agata, V., Palma, A. & Musumeci, G. (2020). The impact of physical activity on psychological health during Covid-19 pandemic in Italy. Heliyon, 6(6). Web.

Puccinelli, P. J., da Costa, T. S., Seffrin, A., de Lira, C. A. B., Vancini, R. L., Nikolaidis, P. T.,… & Andrade, M. S. (2021). Reduced level of physical activity during COVID-19 pandemic is associated with depression and anxiety levels: An internet-based survey. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 1-11. Web.

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Violant-Holz, V., Gallego-Jiménez, M. G., González-González, C. S., Muñoz-Violant, S., Rodríguez, M. J., Sansano-Nadal, O., & Guerra-Balic, M. (2020). Psychological health and physical activity levels during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(24), 9419. Web.

Wright, L. J., Williams, S. E., & Veldhuijzen van Zanten, J. J. (2021). Physical activity protects against the negative impact of coronavirus fear on adolescent mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 737. Web.

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