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Promoting physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic in a rural and medically underserved region
  1. Steven J Elmer1,2,
  2. Isaac J Wedig1,2,
  3. Isaac M Lennox1,2,
  4. Kelly B Kamm1,2
  1. 1Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, USA
  2. 2Health Research Institute, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Steven J Elmer, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI 49931, USA; sjelmer{at}

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Physical activity is described as a ‘best buy’ in public health and urgent action is needed to leverage its benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here we share examples of how the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology at Michigan Technological University assembled a pandemic response team to: (1) enhance public health messaging by including physical activity promotion as a key component, (2) educate clinicians about the role of physical activity in preventing infection and (3) offer a free community-based physical activity programme for the rural and medically underserved Upper Peninsula of Michigan (figure 1). For some context, the Upper Peninsula makes up 30% of the state landmass but only 3% of the population. Public health guidance is facilitated by small and under-resourced health districts that cover large geographical areas. Together, the remote location, ageing population, high prevalence of unhealthy behaviours, limited access to care and workforce shortages posed challenges to the region during the pandemic. With no academic medical or public health schools nearby (ie, 680 km away), our small department (~100 students) was committed to ensuring that physical activity was a critical pandemic control measure to help protect the health of the community.

Figure 1

Overview of physical activity promotional efforts …

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  • Contributors All authors conceptualised the overall idea for the article and approved the final version.

  • Funding During the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors work has been supported by grants from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund (SJE and KBK), Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan (SJE and IJW), Superior Health Foundation (KBK), Portage Health Foundation (IJW) and Michigan Space Grant Consortium (IJW).

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.