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MOVE-research: Flanders’ teaching staff sits an extra 14.5 hours a week during first Corona lockdown

  • January 20, 2021

A study by the MOVE research group among staff members of secondary schools showed that we sat more, but also were more physical active during the first corona lockdown. The corona crisis has a major impact on peoples’ sitting behaviour and physical activity, shows the study by Yanni Verhavert, doctoral researcher at the MOVE. "This is problematic for our health, especially if you know that obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19. It is therefore more important than ever today to keep moving as much as possible and to reduce sitting behaviour", states Yanni Verhavert.


Too little exercise and too much sitting is bad for the immune system and additionally leads to serious diseases, such as obesity. For her doctoral research, Verhavert questioned 673 staff members of Flemish secondary schools, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Tom Deliens, Prof. Dr. Kristine De Martelaer, Prof. Dr. Elke Van Hoof and Prof. Dr. Evert Zinzen. Data was collected via online questionnaires. Physical activity and sitting behaviour during the first lockdown were surveyed. These data were then compared with the pre-lockdown results.

The results show that respondents were more active during the first lockdown than they were before. They were especially more active in the home environment. Respondents spent about 5 hours more per week on household activities and about 2 hours more during their leisure time. On the other hand, physical activity during work and while commuting decreased substantially, by respectively 4.5 hours and 38 minutes per week.

The increase in physical activity may be partly explained by the good weather and the start of spring during the first lockdown. "Therefore, we cannot simply conclude that the lockdown has had a positive effect on our exercise behaviour. It might  be that people are less physically active during the current lockdown because the days are shorter and the weather is worse," says Verhavert.

Remarkably, the researchers also noted an increase in sitting behaviour. In total, people sat about 14.5 hours more per week than before the lockdown. During work and in their leisure time, sitting time increased with about 10 hours per week.

Despite the fact that a specific population was surveyed with the teachers, the researcher believes that the results also apply to the general population. "Everyone was in the same situation and had the same rules imposed on them. Teachers normally do not have a very sedentary job. Therefore, the increase in sitting behaviour for people with a desk job will be slightly smaller. Nevertheless, the increase in sitting behaviour is considerable, meaning that there is a high probability that this increase is also present in the general population."

"The increase in both sitting behaviour and physical activity of the respondents seems contradictory at first glance. Yet both can be explained, as many people switched from working standing up all day to working sitting down all day. At the same time, the lockdown also allowed people to move around more, as the figures show. The respondents were thus physically more active, yet during the workday they sat behind their desk the whole time", says Yanni Verhavert.

It is really important to promote an active and non-sedentary lifestyle during the corona crisis, but also afterwards. Much more needs to be invested in preventive healthcare! A healthy lifestyle is of crucial importance and this crisis highlights this very clearly", concludes Yanni Verhavert.