Just 5 minutes of movement every hour can undo harms from inactivity

LONDON — Has life indoors during the pandemic left you more inactive and fighting off the “COVID 15”? You’re not alone. COVID quarantines have dramatically lowered the amount of physical activity many people usually get through simply socializing outdoors or by going to work. Now, researchers from King’s College London say getting up and moving around for just five minutes every hour can help people shake off their pandemic inactivity.

The team compared the levels of physical activity in people suffering from genetic muscle disorders, such as muscular dystrophy, prior to and toward the end of quarantine. The participants consisted of adults with a variety of physical capacities, ranging from very mobile to needing assistance to move. The study also included 41 people in wheelchairs, who studies frequently overlook, according to the team. The results, according to the researchers, are applicable to people with a variety of capabilities since COVID isolation or switching to remote work disrupted many individuals’ normal schedules.

During the year-long assessment, accelerometers gauged the level of physical activity prior to quarantine in 2019 until the end of quarantine in 2020. These sensors recorded the duration, regularity, and degree of movement in four different categories: robust, mild, low, and sedentary.

Throughout the pandemic, results showed a considerable drop in the degree of physical activity participants got each day. Individuals, on average, were engaging in nearly an hour and a half of mild exercise each day prior to quarantine. As a result of the confinement, people spent an average of 25 minutes less each day on low activity tasks and moved less often (11% less per hour) during the day.

Being physically active is about more than just working out

Due to last year’s restrictions on traveling, outdoor recreational activities, and large gatherings, the study finds people spent less time doing light activities and moved less often in general. Since this daily light activity isn’t necessarily exercise, it’s hard for people to notice these minuscule changes in daily light activity. Despite one’s health status, moderate exercise and frequent activity during the day both play a role in better health outcomes.

“Even people who don’t do much exercise have been impacted by lockdown inactivity. During COVID-19 lockdown, our study detected an extra hour per day of inactivity in disabled and independent adults with neuromuscular diseases. Moving less is detrimental to health. Reduced activity can be especially harmful for those with neuromuscular conditions, disabilities or advanced age,” says lead author and neurological physiotherapist Sarah Roberts-Lewis in a university release.

“The reduction in light activity measured in this study is likely to be similar for anybody whose daily routine has been restricted by lockdown. Based on our findings, we suggest people move their bodies for 5 minutes each hour during the day. Additionally, spend 30 minutes each day doing some extra light activity, like yoga or chair exercises. The World Health Organization activity guidelines state ‘every move counts’; they provide suggestions about light activities suitable for all abilities. Simple changes can help with reconditioning during and after lockdown,” Roberts-Lewis concludes.

This study appears in the journal BMJ Neurology Open.