Luc Goethals, Nathalie Barth, Jessica Guyot, David Hupin, Thomas Celarier , Bienvenu Bongue
JMIR publication, Advencing digital Health Research
Published on 07.05.20 in Vol 3, No 1 (2020)
Background: Older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions are at risk of death from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS CoV-2). In this period of quarantine, one of the reasons for going out is physical activity. This issue is important, as the impact of a sedentary lifestyle might be lower for children and young adults, but is far more severe for older adults. Although older adults need to stay at home because they have a higher risk of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), they need to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity is important for older adults, especially to maintain their level of independence, mental health, and well-being. Maintaining mobility in old age is necessary, as it may predict loss of independence in older adults.
Objective: Our first objective was to evaluate the impact of this quarantine period on physical activity programs and on the physical and mental health of older adults. Our second objective was to discuss alternatives to physical activity programs that could be suggested for this population to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
Methods: We conducted a qualitative survey using semistructured interviews with professionals (managers in charge of physical activity programs for older adults and sports trainers who run these physical activity programs) from the French Federation of Physical Education and Voluntary Gymnastics (FFPEVG) and older adults participating in a physical activity program of the FFPEVG. We followed a common interview guide. For analysis, we carried out a thematic analysis of the interviews.
Results: This study suggests that the COVID-19 epidemic has affected, before quarantine measures, the number of seniors attending group physical activity programs in the two study territories. In addition, despite the decline in their participation in group physical activities before the quarantine, older adults expressed the need to perform physical activity at home. There is a need to help older adults integrate simple and safe ways to stay physically active in a limited space. A national policy to support older adults for physical activity at home appears essential in this context.
Conclusions: Given the results of our study, it seems necessary to globally communicate how important it is for older adults to maintain physical activity at home. We are concerned about the level of independence and mental health state of older adults after the end of quarantine if there is no appropriate campaign to promote physical activity among them at home.