• Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Body Mass, Physical Activity and Nutrition in Canadian Post-Secondary Students

      Bell, Madison; Applied Health Sciences Program
      This study examined changes in body mass, physical activity, and dietary intake and habits in Canadian university students during the first (March – September 2020) and second (October 2020 – March 2021) lockdown/restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two observational, self-reported recall surveys were conducted online; in September 2020 (T1) and March 2021 (T2). Five hundred ten (99 males, 411 females) students completed the survey at T1 and 135 of them also completed the survey at T2. The surveys included demographic information (age, sex, living arrangements, activity level, etc.), body mass and height, and a series of standardized questionnaires on eating habits and behaviours, as well as energy, macronutrient, and micronutrient intake. Body mass and body mass index increased in both males and females. Body mass increased on average by 0.91 kg, t(132) = -2.7, p = 0.008, 95%CI = [0.24, 1.58]. Importantly, a significant change was shown that between T1 and T2 with a greater number of participants identified as overweight (19.8% to 24.4%) than normal weight (61.7% to 54.8%). Body mass change was not associated with changes in physical activity and dietary intake. Females were more likely to decrease At Home Workouts compared to males with no other significant changes detected for type of physical activity in either T1 or T2. Energy intake significantly decreased by ~200 kcals/d. Diet quality also changed in both sexes characterized by negative changes in in both macro and micronutrients. Restrictive eating behaviours were found to increase significantly in females and were more frequent in those with eating disorders. Therefore, modest weight gain did occur during the pandemic in Canadian university students despite the insignificant changes reported in physical activity and the decrease in overall dietary intake, which can be possibly attributed to the changes in diet quality and dietary behaviours.