Now more than ever our personal health has come into sharp focus because of the impact COVID-19 has had everywhere, especially in Europe. And everyone wants to make informed decisions about our psychological and physical needs no matter what country we live in.
When the first wave of the virus hit at the start of the year, everything felt a bit overwhelming on so many fronts. We all have had first-hand experience of how the pandemic’s rolling restrictions and lockdowns can impact us, but our ongoing experience can be used to channel positive outcomes for our overall well being.
New global data from Fitbit shows how Fitbit users around the globe have embraced new activities to help manage our new normal. To determine how the global pandemic is affecting consumers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Fitbit analyzed the responses from a recent survey conducted by a third party on behalf of Fitbit in August 2020 of more than 14,000 people in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UAE, and the UK. The Fitbit research team also analyzed aggregated and anonymous data from February to September 2019 versus the same period in 2020 for those same countries, including step count, active minutes, sleep patterns, and activity types.
How People View Their Personal Health and Wellbeing
According to the survey responses, people are indeed becoming more conscious of their personal health and wellbeing due to COVID-19. Some things such as respondents’ attention to their health and level of activity, along with improving their sleep practices, are all changes for the better, but other changes to respondents’ health, such as feeling increased stress levels, are being brought into focus as areas where help may be needed.
Prior to the restrictions and lockdown in these countries, only 22 percent of respondents said that they paid a lot of attention to their personal health, compared to 42 percent now. Also, 63 percent of respondents stated that they are now more likely to prioritise their health than before.
When analysing physical activity and how COVID-19 affected users when restrictions hit, Fitbit users activity levels reduced and step counts have also declined due to a variety of reasons including less natural moments of activity throughout the day. Fitbit users seem to be missing the simple daily routine activities such as walking the kids to school or taking the stairs during our coffee breaks at work.
As noted above, the Fitbit research team found that users’ activity levels and step counts are down. However, an important factor to note is that the intensity of the activity, such as going for a run or doing a workout, has increased—in particular females across Europe increased the intensity of their active minutes. This may demonstrate that female Fitbit users, in particular, in the countries listed above, are learning new ways to deal with the changes that COVID-19 has brought about.
From these research findings, we see why it is important to focus on the positive changes brought about due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and continue prioritizing our health for the rest of this year and into 2021. How we understand these changes can help the personal and public health challenge ahead of us all.
Similarly to Fitbit users, we were also encouraged to see that nearly over a third of survey respondents (38 percent), believe they developed healthier habits and behaviours during the pandemic such as eating and drinking better and improving their sleep practices. The age group showing the greatest attention to their personal health were those ages 18-24 years old.
In fact, during COVID-19, 44 percent of survey respondents noted that they saw an improvement in their overall sleep duration with many respondents going to bed earlier (32 percent) in order to get a longer night’s rest.
These positive changes were also mirrored in the Fitbit user data across Europe with total sleep duration increasing an average of 10 to 20 minutes per night, compared to the same period last year. Most notably, women aged between 18-29 benefited from an additional 19 minutes per night during lockdown.
Increased Stress Levels
Survey respondents also noted that stress is now a bigger factor in their lives than ever before. Key findings include:
- 50 percent of respondents said their stress levels are higher now than before COVID-19
- In particular, the younger age groups seem to suffer most, with 56 percent of of 18-24 years old experiencing increased stress levels
- Survey respondents also noted the various areas of their life affected by increased stress levels included, mood (47 percent), lack of energy (37 percent) and inability to concentrate (27 percent)
- Working from home also brought stressful challenges for the survey respondents, with the primary issue being the inability to differentiate between work and personal life with 38 percent saying they struggled to distinguish between the working day and the weekend.
- In addition, 42 percent of respondents stated they worked more hours while working from home and as a result of their new working arrangements, 26 percent struggled with a negative impact on their mental health.
With rising stress levels, Fitbit data has also shown us that Fitbit users are coping with stress by increasing meditation practice. Across EMEA for all age groups Fitbit users shifted to more mindfulness exercises.
Other coping mechanisms that were revealed in the survey included listening to music (45 percent), outdoor activities such as walking or hiking (27 percent), and talking to friends (25 percent).
As a Fitbit user, being able to tune into your body and recognise the early signs of stress can help you take action and bring moments of calm into your day, especially in this current climate.
To help you manage your own stress consider these practices:
- Be proactive and mindful. Be aware of your stressors and consider mindfulness practices such as meditation
- Get more deep sleep. Sleep and stress are linked so getting deep sleep may help to reduce anxiety. This kind of sleep restores activity in the brain regions that keep us calm
- Get outside. Take some time in the outdoors and amongst nature which may help a positive mood shift. Use this time to mindfully focus on your breath and surroundings
- Think about variety. To help motivate you to continue to move, don’t be afraid to switch up your exercise routine from time to time.
In an effort to help consumers tackle the challenges presented by stress, Fitbit recently launched Fitbit Sense with the world’s first electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor on a smartwatch to help manage stress. The combined on-device and in-app stress management experience with Fitbit Sense gives users insights into their body’s response to stress with tools to help you manage both their physical and mental stress. It can also help users track key trends in your health and wellbeing, with a new Stress Management Score based on heart rate, sleep, and activity levels.
As the number of COVID-19 cases begins to increase again and with further restrictions coming into force in Europe, we can take learnings from these findings that may help us optimise our overall health and wellbeing, especially as we enter into the winter months.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.