The Impact of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Pandemic on University Students’ Dietary Intake, Physical Activity, and Sedentary Behavior
University students are a vulnerable group for poor dietary intake, insufficient physical activity and sedentary behavior. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of COVID-19 on university students’ dietary intake, physical activity and sedentary behavior.
Participants were students (n=125) from the Universities of Saskatchewan and Regina. An online questionnaire was administered retrospectively (for pre-pandemic) and prospectively (during the pandemic) to examine students’ dietary intake, physical activity and sedentary behavior.
Overall, nutrient and caloric intakes were significantly reduced (p<0.05) during the pandemic, and alcohol intake increased (p=0.03). Before the pandemic, 16% and 54% of the participants were meeting the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults (18–64 years) of 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity and 8 hours or less of sedentary activity respectively. Only 10% met the guidelines for physical activity while 30% met the guidelines for sedentary behavior during the pandemic. The minutes per week spent engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity during the pandemic decreased by approximately 20% (p<0.001). The hours spent in sedentary activities increased by 3 hours per day (p<0.001). The findings confirm that during the pandemic, students’ inadequate dietary intake, high alcohol consumption, low physical activity and high sedentary behaviour were significantly compounded.
During COVID-19, the nutrient and caloric intakes of university students decreased, and alcohol intake increased significantly. University students’ physical activity levels decreased, and sedentary activity increased significantly during COVID-19. During COVID-19 students did not engage in sufficient physical activity to offset the increased sedentary behavior.