Confined to learning from home, isolated from their peers, students and their daily schedules have arguably been most notably affected by the pandemic. The University of Saskatchewan in collaboration with the University of Regina conducted a four-month study on 125 students studying at either the undergraduate or graduate level. The study commenced at the early onset of the global pandemic, as the province of Saskatchewan was imposing restrictions. The study consisted of an online questionnaire on food and drink consumption, physical activity and sedimentary behaviour. It’s important to note that the student population tends to have poor dietary habits and engage in limited physical activity.
Lead author and nutrition professor, Gordon Zello, reported that the implications of the study would be crucial. Future interventions on student populations should be targeted at improving and maintaining physical activity and dietary practices throughout the remainder of the pandemic.
The study found that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to worsening dietary and activity levels, sedentary behaviour, and high alcohol consumption. The students reported that they consumed much less food everyday throughout the pandemic, with 45 per cent of students reporting that they ate less vegetables. Meanwhile, alcohol consumption increased significantly, according to Zello, Professor Phil Chillibeck, and Leandy Bertrand. They suggested that psychological distress has been linked to poor diet, which may also account for the increased alcohol consumption.
Another major troubling implication of the study is that less than 10 per cent of students surveyed were meeting Canadian guidelines of at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. In addition, the amount of time students spent sedentary rose to 11 hours per day. Although this may be a direct consequence of gym and fitness facility closures, it’s crucial that students to get outside and engage in some moderate physical activity, such as walking.
The combination of long-term sedentary behaviour, alcohol dependency, and poor diet has serious implications and heightens health risks. The University of Saskatchewan study had great, generalizable findings of how the pandemic and isolation requirements have impacted students’ physical and mental health.