European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 2022

Impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on level of physical activity and health in home-dwelling older adults in Norway

The spread of the coronavirus in spring 2020 led to a lockdown of physical activity (PA) offers. The aim of this study was to investigate how PA, as well as general and mental health, in community-dwelling older adults were affected by the COVID-19 restrictions in Norway.

Invitation to participate in the study was sent via Facebook and the Norwegian Pensioners’ Association. Inclusion criteria were being ≥ 65 years old and living at home. Participants completed a questionnaire either digitally or on paper in June–August 2020. The questionnaire included questions on PA, general health, and mental health both before (13th of March) and during lockdown.

We included 565 participants (mean age 74 ± 5.3 years, 60.4% female); almost 60% had a university degree, 84% reported performing PA more than once per week, and 20% reported a fall in the previous 12 months. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test indicated that the corona lockdown significantly reduced activity level (Z = -4.918, p < 0.001), general health (Z = -6,910, p < 0.001) and mental health (Z = -12.114, p < 0.001). Those who were less active during lockdown had higher odds of experiencing worse health than those who maintained their activity level, odds ratio: 9.36 (95% CI = 4.71–18.58, p < 0.001) for general health and 2.41 (95% CI = 1.52–3.83, p < 0.001) for mental health. Those who attended organized exercise offers before lockdown had higher odds of being less active during lockdown compared to those who did not exercise in an organized setting, odds ratio: 3.21 (95% CI = 2.17–5.76, p < 0.001).

In a relatively highly educated and active group of older participants, COVID-19 restrictions still negatively affected level of activity as well as general and mental health. These short-term decreases in activity level and health suggest that preventive actions and increased focus on measures to support older adults in maintaining an active lifestyle are needed.


Arnhild J Nygård, Kristin Taraldsen, Randi Granbo, Geir Selbæk, Jorunn L Helbostad

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