Promoting physical activity during the COVID-19 lockdown in Australia: The roles of psychological predictors and commercial physical activity apps

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Abstract

Purpose Physical activity confers many physical and mental health benefits. Thus, it is of great concern that the COVID-19 lockdown has adversely impacted engagement in physical activity. There is a need to understand the factors linked to physical activity during COVID-19 as this will be fundamental to the development of innovative approaches to support engagement in physical activity during a pandemic. This study aimed to ascertain the psychological and mental health predictors of physical activity during the COVID-19 lockdown. We also examined the value of harnessing commercial physical activity apps to facilitate physical activity during a pandemic. Method A nationwide online survey was completed by 408 Australian adults (Mage = 35.7 ± 13.9 years, 86.0% female) following the initial COVID-19 lockdown (April/May 2020). The survey incorporated measures that retrospectively assessed physical activity (and perceived changes in physical activity behaviour), psychological constructs (social support, self-efficacy, self-determined motivations), mental health, and engagement with commercial physical activity apps during the lockdown. Results Over half of participants (53.4%) reported a reduction in physical activity during the initial COVID-19 lockdown, with markedly fewer (23.8%) reporting an increase in physical activity. App use (β = .09, p =.027), social support (β = .10, p =.021), self-efficacy (β = .42, p < 0.001), and identified regulation (β = .25, p < 0.001) emerged as important predictors of physical activity engagement (min/week). Self-efficacy (OR = 4.2, p <.001) was also associated with a greater likelihood of perceived positive changes (increases) in physical activity. The relationship between app use and physical activity was mediated by self-efficacy (β = 0.10 [0.06, 0.15]) and identified regulation (β = 0.09 [0.04, 0.15]); self-efficacy (β = 0.15, [0.09, 0.21]) also mediated the relationship between app use and positive changes in physical activity. Conclusions It is imperative that interventions targeted at increasing social support, self-efficacy, and autonomous motivations are developed and utilised to support engagement in physical activity during a pandemic. Commercial physical activity apps demonstrate the potential to mitigate reductions in physical activity during a pandemic, and thus the use of these apps should be encouraged.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102002
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Volume56
Early online date16 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Physical activity
  • COVID-19
  • social support
  • self-efficacy
  • motivation
  • mental health
  • commercial physical activity apps

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