You'd think lockdown would be heaven for us layabouts – but half the UK has actually started 'exercising more'

UCL study informs app that documents daily activities during quarantine

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Taking conference calls in your pyjamas? Furloughed into endless gaming? A University College London study is now saying that far from instigating a pandemic of bone-idleness, the lockdown has prompted healthy exercise and interest in meditation.

According to the study, more than half of the UK population are now exercising or meditating at least once a day, with running, cycling, and strolling "on the rise."

After getting nearly 4,000 responses, the UCL Centre for Digital Public Health & Emergencies is using the early findings to develop a new app – My Lockdown Journal – which is designed to help people manage their time by logging their own activities and "sharing inspiring ideas along with motivational quotes and tips for improving well-being."

It's a timely move because UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a partial easing of the lockdown with the restricted opening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers – although good luck if you want to get the kids back in school.

UCL found that under lockdown 52 per cent of the population exercised once a day, while 59 per cent have made more time for relaxation and personal interests.

"Yoga, meditation and reading have seen the biggest increase in relaxation activities and walking, cycling and running are on the rise, with people doing more of previous sporting activities rather than finding new ones," the study stated.

But the reaction to lockdown varies with age. Older generations are coping much better with isolation.

For 18 to 24-year-olds, 36 per cent reported being irritable "quite a lot" and 8 per cent "all the time"; 30 per cent said they were distressed "quite a lot" and 31 per cent said they were upset "quite a lot". The over-65s were much more chilled. Only 10 per cent said they were distressed "quite a lot", with very few saying "all the time" for any of the listed negative feelings, which goes to show what paying off your mortgage and getting a gold-plated pension can do for you, right Baby Boomers?

The study was led by UCL's Professor Patty Kostkova, who said the team's app would "leverage our expertise in digital health to provide a practical public health intervention that helps people cope better during the lockdown and upcoming period of social distancing, directly support policy makers and public health professionals."

She encouraged people to use the app and hashtags #MyLockdownJournal and #LockdownJournal, which enters them into a competition to "celebrate the most creative and motivating lockdown activities each week".

Georgiana Birjovanu, a software engineer who worked on the app, said: "It's an extremely unusual time and will provide insight into how people choose to engage with digital tools and social media during times of isolation and uncertainty."

Dutch public health tech company Transmissible BV also contributed to the app.

Far from bringing people together, the study shows how different groups vary in their response to the lockdown restrictions. Social class may also play a factor, if a recent article in the Financial Times is anything to go by.

The piece, titled "The awkward lessons of my luxury lockdown in Kensington", noted that being a "freelance journalist blessed with an inheritance as well as a venture-capitalist husband" made life a little easier, as did spending £65-£95 an hour for online tutoring for the kids.

The only struggle was choosing the right outfit for Zoom calls. The writer, Shruti Advani, finally opted for "Olivia von Halle for silk pajamas in colours guaranteed to make the dullest meeting come alive".

The rest of us can, thanks to UCL, look forward to documenting our lockdown experiences, whether in misery or in meditation, via an app. ®


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