Associations Between Change Over Time in Pandemic-Related Stress and Change in Physical Activity

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: Physical activity (PA) mitigated psychological distress during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet not much is known about whether PA had effects on stress in subsequent months. We examined the relationship between change over time in COVID-related stress and self-reported change in PA between March and July 2020. Methods: Latent growth modeling was used to examine trajectories of change in pandemic-related stress and test their association with self-reported changes in PA in an international sample (n = 679). Results: The participants reported a reduction in pandemic-related stress between April and July of 2020. Significant linear (factor mean = −0.22) and quadratic (factor mean = 0.02) changes (Ps < .001) were observed, indicating a deceleration in stress reduction over time. Linear change was related to change in PA such that individuals who became less active during the pandemic reported less stress reduction over time compared with those who maintained or increased their PA during the pandemic. Conclusions: Individuals who experienced the greatest reduction in stress over time during the pandemic were those who maintained their activity levels or became more active. Our study cannot establish a causal relationship between these variables, but the findings are consistent with other work showing that PA reduces stress.

Wilson and Corbett are with the Department of Kinesiology and Health, College of Education and Human Development, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA. Wilson is also with the Center for the Study of Stress, Trauma, and Resilience, College of Education and Human Development, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA. Van Horn is with the Department of Anthropology, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA. Guevara Beltran, Ayers, and Aktipis are with the Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA. Alcock is with the Department of Emergency Medicine, School of Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA.

Wilson (kwilson141@gsu.edu) is corresponding author.
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