Determining factors of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in university students during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal study.

Publication date: Feb 23, 2024

Historically, university students demonstrate poor movement behaviours that could negatively impact current and future health. Recent literature has focused on identifying determinants of physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviour (SB) in this population to inform the development of intervention strategies. However, the COVID-19 pandemic substantially restricted movement behaviours in this population, meaning findings of previous research may no longer be applicable within the current societal context. The present study explored the longitudinal relationships between pre-pandemic psychological, behavioural and anthropometric factors, and the movement behaviours of UK university students nine months following the outbreak of COVID-19. Mental wellbeing (MWB), perceived stress (PS), body mass index (BMI), SB, and PA were assessed using an online self-report survey in 255 students prior to (October 2019) and nine months following (October 2020) the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the UK. Path analysis was utilised to test relationships between pre-COVID mental wellbeing, perceived stress and BMI, and movement behaviours during the pandemic. The fit of the path analysis model was good (χ2 = 0. 01; CMIN = 0. 10, CFI = 1. 00, RMSEA = 0. 00). Pre-covid MWB and PS positively influenced PA (β = 0. 29; β = 0. 24; P < 0. 01) but not SB (β = -0. 10; β = 0. 00; P = 0. 79) during the pandemic. Additionally, pre-pandemic SB and PA positively influenced SB and PA during the pandemic respectively (SB: β = 0. 26; P < 0. 01) (PA: β = 0. 55; P < 0. 01). Pre-pandemic BMI did not influence any measured variable during the pandemic (PA: β = 0. 03 and P = 0. 29; SB: β = 0. 06 and P = 0. 56), and there was no mediating effect of PA on SB during the pandemic (β = -0. 26; P = 0. 14). These findings indicate that pre-covid mental health and movement behaviours had a direct positive influence on PA during the pandemic, but not SB. This longitudinal study demonstrates the influence that prior psychological and behavioural factors have in determining university students' response to periods of elevated stress and uncertainty, furthering our understanding of determinants of health-related behaviours in students.

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Concepts Keywords
Covid Behaviours
Pandemic Bmi
Students Covid
Wellbeing Determining


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease VO population
disease IDO intervention
disease VO report
disease MESH uncertainty
pathway REACTOME Reproduction
disease MESH non communicable diseases
disease MESH weight gain
disease MESH premature death
disease MESH infection
disease VO time
disease VO effective
disease MESH Lifestyles
disease MESH Obesity
disease MESH Substance Use
drug DRUGBANK Etoperidone
drug DRUGBANK (S)-Des-Me-Ampa
disease VO organization
disease MESH Pediatric Obesity
disease VO age
disease VO device

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