Community physical activity interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic: where there’s a will, there’s a way!

The Route to Moving

The city of Bogotá in Colombia officially entered into a strict quarantine on 25 March 2020 because of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The number of deaths from COVID-19 was much lower than predicted and some restrictions were relaxed. However, on 10 July 2020, the decision was taken to reimpose strict quarantines in more than a dozen neighbourhoods because of the increasing number of cases and the high occupancy of intensive care beds [1].

It is important to suppress transmission of the virus [2] and in this time, the Ministry of Sport is playing an important role in helping people cope with being indoors. The Ministry of Sport was inspired by the policemen who serenaded the citizens of Bogotá during the first weeks of the quarantine [3], and the public institution created the physical activity intervention, La Ruta del Movimiento (see photo below!).

Figure  1. La Ruta del Movimiento roughly translates as The Route to Moving. Here, one of the roving fitness instructors delivers the physical activity intervention to residents of a tower block in the city of Bogotá in Colombia. Photograph courtesy of the Ministry of Sport of Colombia.

A novel programme

What is novel about La Ruta del Movimiento is that the instructor is in the open air and the participants are looking on from their windows, balconies, terraces and front gardens [4]. The programme began in Bogotá, where it is delivered by fitness instructors from the national Ministry of Sport and the local Institute of Sport and Recreation. The programme has a strict protocol regarding the location, the planning, the delivery, and the evaluation of each intervention. The location of the intervention is usually a tower block and the building manager is asked to liaise with the Ministry of Sport in order to plan and promote the intervention. The tower block must have a communal area that can be used to host the intervention. The location might also be a row of garages or people’s front gardens, as long as safe distances between participants can be maintained. The planning involves finding out how many people want to take part and how much equipment might be needed. The support team must arrive at least 30 minutes beforehand and must hang up posters, set up the stage, and test the sound system. The fitness instructor delivers a 5-minute warm-up, a 20-minute workout of light or moderate intensity, and a 5-minute cool-down. The evaluation of the intervention includes counting the number of people who take part and recording their feedback. The number of participants behind windows, the number on balconies, and the number in gardens and other public spaces are counted. The full protocol contains information about physical distancing and biosecurity and is available from the corresponding author.

Some 180 residents of the neighbourhood of Doce de Octubre took part in the first intervention on 1st May 2020. Since then, around 2,250 residents of a dozen neighbourhoods in Bogotá have taken part in La Ruta del Movimiento. The programme is also being delivered in 14 other towns and cities in Colombia. The programme is quite an undertaking, but the feedback makes it all worthwhile. For example, a woman living in Bogotá, said: “I have found it really enjoyable. It helps break the routine of my virtual classes. It’s something energetic that helps me get moving. I felt quite restless at home and I love being active.” Another woman living in Bogotá, said: “I am very happy that they have visited us with this lovely initiative. I have been active all my life. I’m not so young anymore, but I feel 15 years old again!” La Ruta del Movimiento is complemented by virtual resources, such as videos on Facebook Live and videos and other educational resources on Facebook, YouTube, state television, and the official website of the Ministry of Sport (www.mindeporte.gov.co). The Ministry of Sport is also happy to provide advice to individuals and institutions that are interested in becoming more active.

There is great concern about the psychological effects of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic [5 6]. La Ruta del Movimiento helps people cope with being indoors and is a great example of what can be achieved when enough resources are committed to promoting physical activity [7]. The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge to delivering community physical activity interventions [8], but the Ministry of Sport in Colombia has shown that where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Gary O’Donovan,a* Karen Fajardo Ardila,a Hernan Hurtado Ramirez,b Hugo Mayorga Ramirez,b Nubia Ruiz Gómez,b and Olga L. Sarmientoa

aFacultad de Medicina, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia; bMinisterio del Deporte, Bogotá, Colombia

 *Correspondence: Dr Gary O’Donovan, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de los Andes, Carrera 1, 18A-12, Bogotá 111711, Colombia. Email: g.odonovan@uniandes.edu.co

The authors declare no competing interests.

References

  1. El Tiempo. Por qué Bogotá vuelve a una cuarentena estricta por localidades [Why Bogotá is returning to a strict quarantine by neighbourhoods]. Available from: https://www.eltiempo.com/bogota/coronavirus-en-bogota-por-que-volvemos-a-cuarentena-estricta-517048. Date accessed: 12 July 2020.
  2. Sachs JD, Horton R, Bagenal J, Ben Amor Y, Karadag Caman O. The Lancet COVID-19 Commission. The Lancet: DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31494-X.
  3. El Tiempo. Hasta con serenatas, Policía pide en las calles que acaten cuarentena [Even with serenades, the police ask people to follow the quarantine]. Available from: https://www.eltiempo.com/bogota/policia-pide-en-las-calles-que-acaten-cuarentena-hasta-con-serenata-479672. Date accessed: 23 June 2020.
  4. Ministerio del Deporte. Arrancó en Bogotá “La Ruta del Movimiento” [“The Route to Moving” kicks off in Bogotá]. Available from: https://www.mindeporte.gov.co/index.php?idcategoria=97721. Date accessed: 28 June 2020.
  5. Razai MS, Oakeshott P, Kankam H, Galea S, Stokes-Lampard H. Mitigating the psychological effects of social isolation during the covid-19 pandemic. BMJ 2020;369:m1904. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m1904 [published Online First: 2020/05/23]
  6. Venkatesh A, Edirappuli S. Social distancing in covid-19: what are the mental health implications? BMJ 2020;369:m1379. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m1379 [published Online First: 2020/04/08]
  7. Pratt M, Ramirez Varela A, Salvo D, Kohl Iii HW, Ding D. Attacking the pandemic of physical inactivity: what is holding us back? Br J Sports Med 2019: DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2019-101392. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2019-101392 [published Online First: 2019/11/11]
  8. Sallis JF, Adlakha D, Oyeyemi A, Salvo D. An international physical activity and public health research agenda to inform COVID-19 policies and practices. J Sport Health Sci 2020: DOI: 10.1016/j.jshs.2020.05.005. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2020.05.005 [published Online First: 2020/05/26]

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