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Report shows physical activity level of Auckland’s Asian communities significantly impacted by COVID-19

A report into the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the physical activity level of Asian communities across Auckland is providing helpful insights for the sport and recreation sector as New Zealand finds itself dealing with changing norms due to the pandemic.

Undertaken by Regional ActivAsian Partners Aktive, CLM Community Sport, Harbour Sport, Sport Auckland and Sport Waitākere, the online survey explored the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on Asian communities’ physical activity and wellbeing.

Report coordinator and ActivAsian Development Manager Alvin Cheung outlines the research and resulting report.

“The purpose of the research is to provide insights into how Asian communities have been engaging in sport and physical activity through COVID-19 Level 4 lockdowns,” says Mr Cheung. “These insights will be used to improve the accessibility and quality of play, active recreation and sport experiences, and to build resilience for our Asian communities.”

The research applied a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodology in the form of a survey designed to gather insights into Asian communities’ participation in sport and physical activity before and during the lockdown. It looked at barriers and enablers to being physically active and included opportunities for additional comments.

Focused on Asian communities in Tāmaki Makaurau, the survey was voluntary, anonymous and available in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. It was open to any person who identified themselves as “Asian”, with a total of 319 respondents completing the survey.

Mr Cheung outlines some key findings, noting COVID-19 and its resulting lockdown measures have had a powerful impact on Asian communities’ overall wellbeing and their participation in sport and physical activities.

“Asian communities have developed an increased focus or interest in physical activity and wellbeing [during] Level 4 lockdown in August 2021. Participants who developed exercise habits prior to the lockdown were more likely to be physically active during lockdown than those who had not”.

“In addition, Asian communities express a strong need for services to improve their mental health, enrich knowledge on nutrition, and increase opportunities to enhance social connectedness.”

As the report notes, while Asian communities expressed an increased interest in physical activity during lockdown, there was not a correlating increase in actual physical activity levels. The researchers, comprising Mr Cheung, Husmit Uka, ActivAsian Community Leader, Harbour Sport and Sherry Xue, ActivAsian Community Coordinator, Sport Auckland, note this ‘paradox’ is a potential area for future study.

Mr Cheung added: “For our communities, barriers to participation in sport and physical activities during lockdown include lack of motivation, exercise goals, habits and time; being occupied with other commitments; and undesirable weather; as well as COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions.

“Enablers over the same period include availability of time, exercise equipment and sport gear; digital exercise resources; companionship; improved mental and physical health; and being close to facilities, such as parks.”

A key insight from this report is how one person’s barrier can be another person’s motivator: for some respondents, heightened anxiety encouraged them to get in some physical activity, while other people noted their anxiety prevented them from exercising. Likewise, some people found they worked more at home, and therefore had less time for exercise – while others found working from home freed up enough time for them to get in a daily walk or exercise class.

For the full report on the Impact of COVID-19 Restrictions on the Physical Activity Level of Asian Communities across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, click here.

Established by Harbour Sport in 2009, ActivAsian is a collaborative regional project aimed at addressing issues facing Asian communities in participating in sport, recreation and physical activity in the Auckland region. With partners Aktive, CLM Community Sport, Harbour Sport, Sport Auckland and Sport Waitākere, the initiative’s vision is for the Asian community to be activated, advocated for and represented at community levels across play, sport and active recreation.