Impact of COVID-19 on neighbourhood physical activity in older adults

Charlotte Hennah*, Geraint Ellis, Michail Doumas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Physical activity is critical for older adults’ health and was particularly important during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To slow the spread of COVID-19, built environment modifications were introduced in public spaces including one-way walking systems, social distancing, and the restricted use of public toilets and seating. These modifications intended to encourage safe exercise but may have reduced walkability and inadvertently hindered older adults’ physical activity. We aimed to investigate whether Covid-related built environment modifications reduced older adults’ physical activity. We surveyed 282 older adults in the UK using a mixed methods Concurrent Triangulation Design. Physical activity decreased during COVID-19. Older adults believed many Covid-related built environment modifications negatively affected physical activity because of safety or accessibility issues. These negative modifications were more prominent in areas of higher walkability and associated with reduced physical activity. However Covid-related Traffic Reduction and some elements of One-Way Walking Systems were largely considered positive modifications that helped facilitate physical activity. We concluded common Covid-related built environment modifications hindered exercise, reduced walkability, and possibly contributed to reduced physical activity in older adults. If similar modifications are required in the future, older adults’ needs must be accommodated to avoid discouraging physical activity and compromising long-term health.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCities and Health
Early online date21 Jul 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 21 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • built environment
  • COVID-19
  • Healthy ageing
  • older adults
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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