Hillyard, M., Sinclair, M., Murphy, M., Casson, K. & Mulligan, C. | 2021 | The impact of COVID-19 on the physical activity and sedentary behaviour levels of pregnant women with gestational diabetes | PLoS ONE | 16 | 8 | e0254364. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0254364
The authors’ objective was to understand how COVID-19 has affected the self-reported physical activity and sedentary behaviour levels of pregnant women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). To this end they surveyed over 500 participants using an online survey to gauge levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in this population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the activity levels of pregnant women with gestational diabetes and for the researchers of this study, highlights the need for targeted public health initiatives. In their paper they underline that the findings of their study will help policy makers and health service providers to understand how best to support pregnant women during subsequent waves of COVID-19 or future pandemics or situations requiring lockdown.
An online survey exploring physical activity and sedentary behaviour levels of pregnant women with gestational diabetes during COVID-19 was distributed through social media platforms. Women who had been pregnant during the COVID-19 outbreak and had gestational diabetes, were resident in the UK, were 18 years old or over and could understand written English were invited to take part.
A total of 724 women accessed the survey, 553 of these met the eligibility criteria and took part in the survey. Sedentary time increased for 79 per cent of the women during the pandemic. Almost half of the women (47 per cent) were meeting the physical activity guidelines pre COVID-19 during their pregnancy, this dropped to 23 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear of leaving the house due to COVID-19 was the most commonly reported reason for the decline. Significant associations were found between meeting the physical activity guidelines during COVID-19 and educational attainment, fitness equipment ownership and knowledge of how to exercise safely in pregnancy.
Conclusions and implications
These results show the impact of COVID-19 on physical activity and sedentary behaviour levels and highlight the need for targeted public health initiatives as the pandemic continues and for future lockdowns. Women with gestational diabetes need to know how it is safe and beneficial to them to engage in physical activity and ways to do this from their homes if fear of leaving the house due to COVID-19 is a barrier for them. Online physical activity classes provided by certified trainers in physical activity for pregnant women may help them remain active when face-to-face appointments are reduced and limited additional resources are available.