Closures of gyms and sports facilities during the Coronavirus pandemic has significantly reduced physical activity levels, leaving people feeling disconnected, anxious and becoming unhealthy, according to a new study. The research, led by Manchester Metropolitan University, shows that between April and September this year, the impact of closed community and grassroots sports had a major impact on mental and physical health. The report also highlighted issues such as ‘digital poverty’ meaning some people couldn’t access online exercise services.

The report found that those who live in areas with cycle lanes, green spaces, attractive scenery and had their own gardens reported being more active, and found it to have mental health and wellbeing benefits. However, those that didn’t have this, or for those whose main form of social interaction previously was through sport and physical activity, the COVID-19 lockdown left them feeling lost, and while online alternatives were available, most felt that it was not an effective substitute.

The impact of this is the physical and mental health of participants. Many reported loss of stamina, strength, an increase in weight and a knock-on effect into lifestyle choices such as diet and alcohol consumption. Mentally, many participants explained how they had reduced self-esteem, a loss of identity, anxiety and instable working routines.

The report also highlighted an issue of digital poverty – that while some people had the opportunity to switch to online workouts and training, others did not have that luxury, either because they were elderly and did not have those skills, or because of financial challenges.

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