Why physical activity matters for older adults in a time of pandemic

Conor Cunningham, Roger O' Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted communities across the world. Government responses, of promoting 'social distancing' at a population level, and 'self-isolation' of older adults to mitigate its spread have been unprecedented. Despite the importance of these Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM), they present challenges to maintaining a physically active lifestyle, particularly for older adults.

CONTEXT: The importance of physical activity (PA) for health is well documented. There is strong evidence that PA in later life reduces the risk of disease, helps to manage existing conditions, and develops and maintains physical and mental function. Staying physically active is particularly important for older adults currently.

IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Research suggests that PHSM have already reduced levels of PA for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to COVID-19 many older adults were not engaging in enough PA to attain health benefits. Evidence indicates that there will be an increase in the number of older adults not meeting guidelines for PA due to the impacts of COVID-19. This has implications for population health and public health policy. How to support older adults to remain physically active during and after the COVID-19 crisis will require careful consideration. Going forward it is imperative that policy and practice support all older adults to achieve the recommended levels of PA to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in the short- but also in the longer term by the impact of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16 (2020)
JournalEuropean Review of Aging and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 23 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Physical activity
  • Older adults
  • Public health
  • COVID-19


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