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Fit and in a good mood – International study on sports and exercise in times of crisis

People who exercised and did sports on a regular basis before the corona crisis are currently more active than those who were not or only irregularly physically active before. People who have been physically active for a longer period of time are also more content – not only compared to those that are inactive, but also to those who have had to talk themselves into doing more sports in times of crisis. These are the results of a worldwide study organized at short notice, in which more than 15.000 participants in 52 countries have so far taken part. ”Exercising is not only good for the body, but also for the soul,” says Prof. Dr. Ralf Brand from the University of Potsdam, who initiated the study. “Our data show that an increased amount of sports and exercise during the crisis has a positive effect on the mood of the respondents. People who exercise more feel better, especially in unusual circumstances like the current corona crisis, than those who are less active,” according to the sports psychologist. In light of these results, the researchers recommend a cautious but timely easing of restrictions that currently make it difficult for the population to engage in health-promoting exercise.

Within a very short time frame since mid-March, Ralf Brand succeeded in enlisting cooperating sports scientists from all over the world for the joint study. The aim of the project was to determine how people's sports and exercise behavior changes under corona-related restrictions of personal lifestyles – and what effects this has on their subjective well-being. While the study still continues in some countries where public life remains severely restricted, the first round of data collection in Germany has been completed. A total of 2,037 people from all German states participated. The average age of respondents is 37 years.

The evaluation of the survey shows: Three quarters of the people in Germany who were doing sports before the crisis continue to do so – to the same extent or even more often than before. Almost half of those who exercised very little or not at all before the crisis were able to improve and now exercise two to three times a week. Only about a quarter remain inactive. Overall, about half of the participants in Germany were able to maintain their pre-crisis level of physical activity and exercise. About 35 percent did less while 15 percent increased the amount of sports and exercise they did. Above all, however, the study’s data show that more sports and exercise during the crisis is linked to the mood of the respondents in a positive way. This is all the more meaningful considering that those who were rarely physically active before corona are now in a worse mood compared to others. This means that doing more exercise now than before the crisis has a notably less positive effect on participant’s current mood.

Incidentally, people are more inactive where restrictions have been more severe. In federal states with stricter regulations, respondents were indeed less physically active than people in federal states that have defined a set of less strict rules of conduct for their citizens. In light of the restrictions, it is hardly surprising that around half of those who were already active in sports before the crisis switched to another type of sport or exercise. Working out at home and running have replaced workouts in gyms and clubs.
This first phase of the study is to be followed by a second one, in which the same people will be interviewed again once the corona crisis has subsided to some extent.

Prof. Dr. Ralf Brand, Head of Sports and Exercise Psychology
Phone: 0331 977-1040, E-Mail: ralf.branduni-potsdamde

Media information 30-04-2020 / No. 051