The Impact Of Coronavirus On Global Activity

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, it’s had a major impact on physical activity levels for our 30 million plus active Fitbit users around the globe. Our mission has always been to help people around the world get healthier, and it’s more important than ever to do so during these challenging times. That’s why we’re sharing our best tips on how to try and stay healthy, keep active, and manage stress while staying indoors. 

But first, we wanted to share the impact of COVID-19 on global physical activity so far based on what we’ve seen in the Fitbit data. As communities adapt to social distancing, it’s no surprise that almost all of the countries we studied experienced a statistically significant decline in average step count compared to the same time last year. See a summary of global activity levels in the map below.

The Impact of Coronavirus on Physical Activity All Over the World

The severity of the decline in steps varied from country to country, with European countries showing a more dramatic change, ranging from a 7% to 38% decline in step counts during the week ending March 22, 2020. 

Fitbit data scientists established a baseline for normal activity levels around step count in each area by analyzing the activity of millions of Fitbit users with similar characteristics during the same week from the previous year.¹ According to this analysis, during the week of March 22, 2020, the United States saw a 12% decline in step count.²

In the graphic below, you can see how step count behavior has changed over time on a country-by-country basis. For example, the deviation from normal activity for this time last year occurred much earlier in the year for countries like China and Hong Kong, which were the first to face COVID-19. There are also reasons for optimism, as you can see that step counts are starting to rise again in China, Japan, and Hong Kong. 

In Europe, the largest reduction in step counts was seen in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Romania, and France in the week ending March 22, 2020.  

In the United States, most major metropolitan areas saw a deeper decline in step counts than the country’s overall average decline of 12% in the week ending March 22, 2020. For the United States metropolitan areas included in the analysis below, the trend of step count declines continued in the week ending March 22, 2020. 

Looking at the chart below, we compared how step counts have changed in major United States cities over the past two weeks, many of which have implemented shelter-in-place mandates or other strict regulations. For example, over the last week, San Francisco and New York City—two cities that are also currently under shelter-in-place orders—had the largest decline in step count. 

Given the current circumstances, we know how hard it is to focus on your health and wellness. We’ve laid out the data—now we want to provide you with some tips to stay healthy and active. After all, staying active, eating nutritious foods, sleeping well, and managing stress are critical to boosting your mood and your immunity.

How Fitbit Can Help

To support you during this time, we’ve pulled together the following tips and offerings to help you keep up healthy habits:

Try a free 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium. To make health more accessible, Fitbit is offering a free 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium to users wherever Premium is available, and offering 40 new pieces of Premium content for free in the Fitbit app. Premium offers access to hundreds of workouts categorized by time, activity, and fitness level—so that you can easily find what’s right for you. 

You can also take advantage of advanced insights, and sleep and mindfulness tools, to help you eat better, get more activity, and enjoy more quality ZZZ’s.  To take advantage of this trial, open the Fitbit app and tap on the “Premium” tab in the lower-right corner (this trial offer is only valid for new Premium users). 

Maintain healthy habits like drinking lots of water and eating nutritious foods. Need some inspiration when it comes to cooking healthy meals at home? Try whipping up a few of our most popular healthy recipes: 

Download a fun reminder to wash your hands. Download the Clean Cues clock face for your Fitbit device for an hourly reminder to wash your hands. The clock face features a countdown timer and a gentle buzz every 60 minutes to remind you to wash. When you’re ready to lather up, simply tap “start washing hands” and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or more. Your watch will buzz to let you know when those 20 seconds have elapsed. (Only available on Fitbit Ionic and Versa Family devices.) 

Remember to take mental health breaks. Working remotely and can’t seem to turn off? Or maybe you keep refreshing your social media feeds to get the latest intel? Remembering to take regular mental health breaks is crucial. In fact, studies show that taking a few moments to relax each day can reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. The Relax app provides personalized deep breathing sessions that can help you more easily find moments of calm throughout your day. Choose between two-minute or five-minute long sessions. 

¹Some of the year-over-year change in activity may be due to weather or shift in holiday schedules.

²The most recent days of data are subject to some bias toward users who sync their devices more regularly. Some of this risk is mitigated by analyzing weeks instead of days.

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