Over the short term (3 months), the COVID-19 pandemic had no impact on training or dietary intake in elite paracyclists, demonstrating the resilience of this group.

May 14, 2021

Keely Shaw, PhD Candidate, CSEP-CEP

College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada


  • Five months before the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, the International Paralympic Committee postponed the Games by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Paralympic athletes are at increased risk to be negatively affected by pandemic-related restrictions due to comorbidities or reliance on others to help them train and access nutrition required to sustain training and recovery.

How the study was done

  • 24 paracyclists and one paratriathlete (15 females, 10 males) completed two online questionnaires with a minimum of one week in between. One questionnaire asked them to report their typical diet prior to the pandemic (i.e., February 2020) and the second asked them to report their diet during the pandemic (i.e., May 2020).
  • Participants reported the average time they spent engaging in sedentary screen time activities before and during the pandemic and their training volume and intensity for a specified week in each of February (before the pandemic), March, April, and May (i.e., 3 months during the pandemic).
  • Participants completed a “ramp cycle ergometer test” in their own home using their own equipment at the time of enrollment and four weeks later. After a brief warm up, intensity increased by 20 watts every minute starting at 100 watts until they could no longer maintain the power output.
  • Peak and mean power, heart rate and total test duration were recorded.

What researchers found

  • No changes were observed in training volume or intensity as the pandemic progressed.
  • No changes were observed in any fitness variable obtained from the ramp test, as the pandemic progressed.
  • The amount of time engaging in sedentary screen time increased significantly from 4.5 hours/day before the pandemic to 6.1 hours/day during the pandemic.
  • No differences were observed in dietary intake (macronutrients or micronutrients) from before to during the pandemic.


  • While there was an increase in sedentary behaviour, the total amount of time spent engaging in these activities was still quite low compared to other populations
  • The pandemic has not affected the training, fitness, or nutrition of elite paracyclists in the short-term (3 months).

Take home message

  • Over the short term (3 months), the COVID-19 pandemic had no impact on training or dietary intake in elite paracyclists, demonstrating the resilience of this group
  • Sedentary behaviour increased in this population, but the cause of this is unclear (i.e., whether it is due to increased time watching television vs virtual gatherings with family/friends)
  • Athletes should continue to optimize their training and nutrition in order to achieve peak performances when competitions resume

Original Article: Shaw, K. A., Bertrand, L., Deprez, D., Ko, J., Zello, G. A., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2021). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on diet, fitness, and sedentary behaviour of elite para-athletes. Disability and health journal, 101091. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2021.101091

If you cite any information from this, please consult the original article and cite that source. This summary was written for the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and it has been reviewed by the CSEP Knowledge Translation Committee.