Pandemic limited physical activity, nutrition access for patients with diabetes, study says

Arkansas residents with diabetes ate fewer healthy foods and exercised less during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Sept. 22 news release from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Researchers surveyed 876 respondents from six primary care clinics in the state of Arkansas between Oct. 30, 2020, and Jan. 26, 2021.

Key findings from the report: 

  • Patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus experienced decreased physical activity and noted diet changes during COVID-19.

  • A reduction in physical activity was reported by 31.3 percent of the respondents, and 20.8 percent of the respondents reported eating fewer fruits and vegetables during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    - Respondents exercised for at least 30 minutes on a mean of 2.09 days.

    - Respondents consumed five or more fruit and vegetable servings on a mean of 3.57 days.

  • Males engaged in one additional day of physical activity compared to women.

  • Self-rated health was associated with the number of days patients engaged in physical activity.

Studies conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that self-rated health is associated with physical activity and consuming fruits and vegetables, with those reporting better health also engaging in more physical activity and consuming more servings of fruits and vegetables.

According to researchers, the study's results confirm the need for diabetes education programs and healthcare providers to provide information on the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet as part of a type 2 diabetes management plan, especially during public health emergencies.

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