Is COVID-19 the ultimate sitting disease?

ISPRM News Icon

ISPRM Survey Alert!

COVID 19 Icon

A global web-based survey on healthy lifestyle behaviors during the pandemic

Global effects of the COVID-19 period on lifestyle behaviors

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted nearly every aspect of daily life, from metabolic function to social and health-related behaviors[1, 2]. Persons living with physical, cognitive, and/or developmental disabilities are experiencing out-sized impacts, as pre-existing inequity gaps related to occupation, transportation, communication, health and fitness have only been widened during this pandemic[3-5]. Despite the United Nations’ 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) , we know for example, that the right to fitness through physical activity and recreation is often denied people who live with a disability (especially in resource-poor settings), due to institutional, environmental and attitudinal barriers[6].

In non-disabled communities, the coronavirus outbreak has been a documented hazard to public health. For example, results of the Effects of home confinement on multiple lifestyle behaviours during the COVID-19 outbreak (ECLB-COVID19) electronic survey indicate that around the world, home confinement has altered adult physical activity and eating behaviors in a health compromising direction[7]. In individual groups of Australian, Italian and Canadian adults, the pandemic negatively impacted physical activity, sleep, smoking and alcohol intake, which were in turn associated with higher depression, anxiety and stress symptoms[8-10]. In the Canadian cohort, a greater proportion of previously inactive individuals became less active, when compared to previously active individuals. In Belgium, a population-level sample of adults reported having less time, sitting more, and missing the familiar way and competitive element of exercising as the main reasons for a self-reported exercise reduction[11]. And in France, even before home confinement/quarantine measures, the number of seniors attending group physical activity programs decreased[12].

For the 1 billion global persons who live with an impairment that significantly alters daily function (80% of whom live in developing countries where natural disasters and armed conflicts leave 3.5 million refugees and internally displaced people who survive with a physical disability annually)[13-15], the impact of the pandemic on physical activity, physical inactivity and sedentariness remains unknown.

Global web-based survey on healthy lifestyle behaviors in persons with (and without!) disabilities

The Task Force on Physical Activity for Persons with Disabilities is currently conducting a global web-based survey on healthy lifestyle behaviors in persons with and without disabilities, in 7 languages. The aim is to determine the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on perceived physical activity levels, healthy eating habits, sleep habits, tobacco consumption and sedentariness in community-dwelling persons with disabilities. The group will also compare the impact of the pandemic on the ability of the disabled versus the non-disabled to pursue healthy lifestyles.

How you can help

Take the survey! Then, distribute far and wide among your patients, families, community centers, social media groups, clinical centers, email lists, and beyond. The pandemic has illuminated, and in some cases widened, existing gaps in access to health for vulnerable populations. After the pandemic ends, health and wellness organizations should take stock of how equitable and inclusive their movement-related health strategies are, and use these data to fill in gaps where appropriate.

Thank you for your help and support!

ISPRM Task Force on Physical Activity for Persons with Disabilities (learn more)


1. Martinez-Ferran, M., et al., Metabolic Impacts of Confinement during the COVID-19 Pandemic Due to Modified Diet and Physical Activity Habits. Nutrients, 2020. 12(6).
2. Peçanha, T., et al., Social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic can increase physical inactivity and the global burden of cardiovascular disease. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, 2020. 318(6): p. H1441-h1446.
3. Armitage, R. and L.B. Nellums, The COVID-19 response must be disability inclusive. Lancet Public Health, 2020. 5(5): p. e257.
4. News, U. Preventing discrimination against people with disabilities in COVID-19 response. March 19, 2020 July 1, 2020]; Available from:
5. Lai, B., et al., COVID-19 Modifications for Remote Teleassessment and Teletraining of a Complementary Alternative Medicine Intervention for People With Multiple Sclerosis: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Res Protoc, 2020. 9(7): p. e18415.
6. Martin, J.J., Benefits and barriers to physical activity for individuals with disabilities: a social-relational model of disability perspective. Disabil Rehabil, 2013. 35(24): p. 2030-7.
7. Ammar, A., et al., Effects of COVID-19 Home Confinement on Eating Behaviour and Physical Activity: Results of the ECLB-COVID19 International Online Survey. Nutrients, 2020. 12(6).
8. Stanton, R., et al., Depression, Anxiety and Stress during COVID-19: Associations with Changes in Physical Activity, Sleep, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Australian Adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2020. 17(11).
9. Maugeri, G., et al., The impact of physical activity on psychological health during Covid-19 pandemic in Italy. Heliyon, 2020. 6(6): p. e04315.
10. Lesser, I.A. and C.P. Nienhuis, The Impact of COVID-19 on Physical Activity Behavior and Well-Being of Canadians. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2020. 17(11).
11. Constandt, B., et al., Exercising in Times of Lockdown: An Analysis of the Impact of COVID-19 on Levels and Patterns of Exercise among Adults in Belgium. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2020. 17(11).
12. Goethals, L., et al., Impact of Home Quarantine on Physical Activity Among Older Adults Living at Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Qualitative Interview Study. JMIR Aging, 2020. 3(1): p. e19007.
13. O'Young, B., J. Gosney, and C. Ahn, The Concept and Epidemiology of Disability. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am, 2019. 30(4): p. 697-707.
14. Bethge, M., et al., The World Report on Disability: a challenge for rehabilitation medicine. Am J Phys Med Rehabil, 2014. 93(1 Suppl 1): p. S4-11.
15. Organization, W.H. World Report on Disability. 2011 July 1, 2020]; Available from: