In its opinion published in February 2016, ANSES pointed out the hazards of insufficient physical activity and the effects of sedentary behaviour. On the basis of this opinion, the Agency is now adapting its guidelines to the lockdown situation and has set out some principles to be observed by the population, whether children, adults, or the elderly. The Agency has formulated some practical proposals for activities to maintain muscle function, at intensities adapted to each population group and able to be practised in a confined space. It has also identified some hazards specific to the lockdown situation, in terms of mental health and sleep.
Keep up sufficient daily physical activity, even in a small space
Daily physical activity should be adapted to the possibilities offered by the available space. In this respect, the Agency points out that physical activity is not limited to the pursuit of a sport: moving around in your home and garden, carrying loads, going up or down stairs or doing household chores are all activities that exercise the body.
During the lockdown, it is important to compensate for the decrease in daily activities, which included moving around outdoors. Compared to the guidelines issued by ANSES in 2016, you can increase the frequency and duration of the periods devoted to physical exercise, provided that you remember to take a gradual approach and adapt the activity to your own abilities. The Agency offers specific recommendations on the types of exercise to be practised – muscle strengthening, flexibility and cardiorespiratory – according to age and situation.
Before engaging in any physical activity, the Agency reiterates that you must take your state of health into account, including any suspicion of contamination or fever, attributable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If you are ill or think you are ill, you should refrain from any physical activity.
Take more active breaks from screen time and avoid snacking
Physical inactivity is a risk factor for chronic disease and increased mortality. Since the lockdown generally involves spending more time sitting on a daily basis, ANSES is adapting its 2016 recommendations and advises increasing the breaks in sedentary periods by a factor of three or four.
The opinion also warns about the increased time spent using screens for passive activities. In addition, it is important to pay attention to the associated dietary behaviour: snacking on sweet and savoury products and increasing food intake outside of main meals may lead to increased energy intake and the risk of straying further from the food-based dietary guidelines for each of the target populations (see ANSES's 2019 recommendations for children aged 3-17 years and the elderly, and its 2017 recommendations for the general population).
Pay special attention to the elderly, children and adolescents
Safeguarding everyone's health in a lockdown situation means paying special attention to people over 65 years of age, children and adolescents. With advancing age, it becomes more difficult to reverse the effects of restricted movement on the musculoskeletal system. Children and adolescents have greater physical activity needs than adults, and these are more difficult to meet during the lockdown. Regarding adolescents, another point that warrants vigilance concerns the risks arising from poor behavioural and eating habits associated with the increase in screen time.
This attention is all the more justified since, generally speaking, we do not yet know to what extent the effects of the lockdown are reversible. This should be the subject of specific research.