Astronauts will encounter isolated, confined and extreme (ICE) conditions during future missions, and will have to be able to adapt. Until recently, however, few places on Earth could serve as acceptable space analogues (i.e., submarine and polar regions). The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19)-related lockdowns around the globe provided a good opportunity to obtain more comprehensive datasets on the impact of prolonged isolation on human functioning in a very large sample.
Seven hundred forty-eight individuals (Belgium 442, Spain 183, Germany 50, Italy 50, US 23; Mean age ± SD: 41 ± 14 years, with an age range of 18–83 years; 66% women) filled out an online survey assessing the impact of the COVID-lockdown on psychological, exercise and general health variables a first time near the beginning of the initial lockdown (hereafter ‘T1’; 24 ± 13 days after the start of the first lockdown; i.e., 3 weeks after the start of the first lockdown) and a second time a couple of weeks thereafter (hereafter ‘T2’; 17 ± 5 days after the first online survey; i.e., 6 weeks after the start of the first lockdown).
From T1 to T2 an improvement of subjective sleep quality was observed (
P= 0.003), that was related to an increase in subjective sleep efficiency and a decrease in sleep latency and disturbance ( P≤ 0.013). Weekly sitting time decreased, and the weekly amount of moderate and vigorous physical activity increased from T1 to T2 ( P≤ 0.049). No differences from T1 to T2 were observed in terms of mood, loneliness and state anxiety. A lower amount of sitting time was significantly correlated with improved subjective sleep quality ( r= 0.096, P= 0.035) and with an increased amount of moderate ( r= −0.126, P= 0.005) and vigorous ( r= −0.110, P= 0.015) physical activity. Conclusion
Compared to 3 weeks into the first COVID-imposed lockdown, 6-weeks after the start of the first COVID-imposed lockdown, physical activity and subjective sleep scores were positively impacted. The present, large sample size study further confirms exercise as a worthwhile countermeasure to psycho-physiological deconditioning during confinement.