Interactive training programs for use at home
can make the restrictions during a lockdown more bearable. The live-streaming of
sports offerings allows for a significant increase in physical activity,
revealed a research team from ten countries headed by the Institute of Sport
Science at Goethe University Frankfurt. At the same time well-being improved
compared to an inactive control group. One year previously, the team had
described the negative impacts of coronavirus restrictions on exercise and well-being.
were about 40 per cent less active during the first lockdown in the spring of 2020.
This has been revealed by an international study headed by Goethe University
Frankfurt. Psychological well-being also declined, with the proportion of
people at risk of depression increasing threefold. In order to cushion the
effects of this negative development, the research team designed an online training
program for use at home and studied whether the physical activity that is so
important to general health could be maintained during a lockdown. The results
of the study were recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Of 763 healthy subjects from nine
countries on four continents, half trained for four weeks using a live-stream program,
the others formed the control group. Those training could select from a number
of daily workouts – for example with the focus on strength, endurance, balance
or relaxation. Professional trainers actively accompanied them with a camera
and microphone. Each week both groups completed standardised questionnaires on physical activity, anxiety, mental well-being, quality
of sleep, pain and sport motivation.
The training program was particularly
effective in improving movement behavior in the participants: physical activity
was initially as much as 65 per cent higher on average in the online group than
in the comparison group, and still 20 to 25 per cent higher after four weeks. Thus,
the course participants clearly surpassed the WHO recommendations of at least 150
minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intensive exercise per week, while the control
group only just attained these. At the same time the motivation to do sport,
psychological well-being and sleep improved, and anxiety levels decreased.
“While these improvements are minor, they are nevertheless potentially relevant,"
stresses study head Dr. Jan Wilke from the Institute
of Sport Science at Goethe University Frankfurt. “Our participants were all
healthy – the effects with patients could be significantly greater, in
particular with people who have chronic disease." In addition, he said, four
weeks is a very short period for such efficacy studies. Participants who took
part in at least two courses per week stated their fitness was even better and they
had a greater feeling of well-being, yet did not note any further improvement
with sleep or fears.
Unfortunately, only just under half of the
participants completed the study. The research group attributed this in
particular to the considerable effort of completing the questionnaires each week.
This frequent information retrieval was intended to ensure that the study would
allow conclusions to be drawn even if the lockdown regulations were relaxed. The
changes in local conditions in the same period could also have lowered the motivation
of some participants, for example if local fitness studios had reopened.
Moreover, the requirements were very strict: those who did not respond by
completing the questionnaire were eliminated from the study.
“Train at home, but not alone" – it is
best to train at home with others, this is how the working group summarised its
findings on exercise offerings in the pandemic-induced lockdown. For: following
the main section of the study – the live-streaming – when both groups had
access to recorded contents, the differences that had been observed declined in
part. According to Wilke, this is due to both the activation of the control group
as well as to the change in the form of the physical activity intervention
(live vs. recorded).
The study authors expressly underline the importance
of exercise in our daily lives: in line with the latest data, physical inactivity
causes eight to nine per cent of all premature deaths, increases the risk of
cardiac disease, metabolic disorders and cancers, as well as proneness to the
novel coronavirus. They believe that it is probably all the more important in
lockdown to offer online training for people with chronic illnesses – for
example diabetics – whose health could possibly suffer additionally under the
restrictions imposed by a pandemic.
Jan Wilke, Lisa Mohr, Gustavo Yuki, Adelle
Kemlall Bhundoo, David Jiménez-Pavón, Fernando Laiño, Niamh Murphy, Bernhard
Novak, Stefano Nuccio, Sonia Ortega-Gómez, Julian David Pillay, Falk Richter,
Lorenzo Rum, Celso Sanchez-Ramírez, David Url, Lutz Vogt, Luiz Hespanhol. Train at home, but not alone: a randomised
controlled multicentre trial assessing the effects of live-streamed
tele-exercise during COVID-19-related lockdowns. Br. J. Sports Med. (2022) https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2021-104994
Sports offerings via live streaming promotes
activity and well-being during pandemic lockdowns. Photo: Jan Wilke,
Dr. phil. Jan Wilke
Institute of Sports Sciences
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Phone +49 (69) 798-24588,