J.G.DE ROZA1, D.W.L.NG1, L.J.GOH1, B.K.MATHEW1, T.JOSE1, C.Y.WANG1, C.S.C.SOH1, K.C.GOH2, C.Y.TAN3
NHG Polyclinics1, National University Hospital2, Changi General Hospital3
Insufficient physical activity in older adults has been exacerbated due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. We aimed to determine differences in physical activity between those who felt safe versus unsafe to exercise, and describe barriers and preferred modes of physical activity of older adults during pandemic.
This descriptive cross-sectional study recruited a convenience sample of community-dwelling adults aged 65 and above from 4 primary care clinics from September to December 2020. Interviewer-administered questionnaires comprised the Incidental and Planned Exercise Questionnaire: Weekly Average (IPEQ -WA), dichotomous question on perceived safety to exercise during pandemic, barriers and preferred modes of physical activity. Differences between those who felt safe versus unsafe to exercise were compared using Chi-square and Independent t-test. Open-ended responses about barriers and preferred activities were collated.
Out of 268 older adults, 68 (25.4%) felt unsafe to exercise during the pandemic. Participants who felt unsafe were more likely to be age 75 years and above (72.1% vs 57.0%, P=0.028), lacked formal education (54.4% vs 37.0%, P=0.040), exercised at home only (64.7% vs 36.4%, P=0.001), and had shorter duration of exercise and walks per week (2.72 vs 4.50 hours, P=0.002). Barriers included difficulties exercising with masks, family concerns and exercise centre closures. Most participants preferred group or outdoor exercise; due to lack of digital literacy, only 26.5% preferred online home-based exercise.
Perceived lack of safety reduced older adults’ physical activity levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Older adults’ barriers and preferences should be considered when developing programs to improve physical activity levels during pandemics.