Use of Accelerometers to Track Changes in Stepping Behavior With the Introduction of the 2020 COVID Pandemic Restrictions: A Case Study

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Tiereny McGuire Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom

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Kirstie Devin Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom

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Victoria Patricks School of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, United Kingdom

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Benjamin Griffiths School of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, United Kingdom

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Craig Speirs Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom
PAL Technologies Ltd, Glasgow, United Kingdom

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Malcolm Granat School of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, United Kingdom

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Introduction: The COVID-19 lockdown introduced restrictions to free-living activities. Changes to these activities can be accurately quantified using combined measurement. Using activPAL3 and self-reports to collect activity data, the study aimed to quantify changes that occurred in physical activity and sedentary behavior between prelockdown and lockdown. The study also sought to determine changes in indoor and outdoor stepping. Methods: Using activPAL3, four participants recorded physical activity data prelockdown and during lockdown restrictions (February–June 2020). Single events (sitting, standing, stepping, lying) were recorded and analyzed by the CREA algorithm using an event-based approach. The analysis focused on step count, sedentary time, and lying (in bed) time; median and interquartile range were calculated. Daily steps classified as taking place indoors and outdoors were calculated separately. Results: 33 prelockdown and 92 in-lockdown days of valid data were captured. Median daily step count across all participants reduced by 14.8% (from 5,828 prelockdown to 4,963 in-lockdown), while sedentary and lying time increased by 4% and 8%, respectively (sedentary: 9.98–10.30 hr; lying: 9.33–10.05 hr). Individual variations were observed in hours spent sedentary (001: 8.44–8.66, 002: 7.41–8.66, 003: 11.97–10.59, 004: 6.29–7.94, and lying (001: 9.69–9.49, 002: 11.46–11.66, 003: 7.63–9.34, 004: 9.7–11.12) pre- and in-lockdown. Discrepancies in self-report versus algorithm classification of indoor/outdoor stepping were observed for three participants. Conclusion: The study quantitively showed lockdown restrictions negatively impacted physical activity and sedentary behavior; two variables closely linked to health outcomes. This has important implications for public health policies to help develop targeted interventions and mandates that encourage additional physical activity and lower sedentary behavior.

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