Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

What effect has coronavirus, self-isolation, and quarantine had on weight, sleep, and activity levels? Fitness trackers offer an insight

What effect has dramatically changed daily habits had on people's health?

Fitness tracker data gauges lockdown impact on daily habits

With coronavirus having turned social media into a sea of photos of banana bread making, it's easy to think that people all across the world are piling on the pounds as they see less exercise, lower activity levels, and disturbed sleep.

But what does the data say?

Health device maker Withings has been crunching the numbers, and it seems that things are nowhere near as bad as some media reports may have suggested.

Let's take a tour of the data.

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Weight

I don't know about you, but my social media suggests that everyone is baking sourdough and banana bread, but the overall effect that self-isolation, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine has had of weight has been negligible.

  • United States: the average person gained .21 lbs (.095kg) with only 37 percent of people gaining more than a pound
  • United Kingdom: the average person gained .35 lbs (.16 kg)
  • Germany: the average person gained .41 lbs (.189 kg)
  • China: the average person gained .55 lbs (.25 kg)
  • Italy: the average person gained .42 lbs (.195 kg)
  • France: the average person only gained .19 lbs (.084 kg)

Steps

It's harder to get steps in, but people have still be walking a lot it seems.

  • United States: average daily steps decreased by 7 percent
  • United Kingdom: average daily steps decreased by 8 percent
  • Germany: activity levels increased by 1 percent
  • China: average steps decreased by 56 percent in Hubei, however, the country is back up to its usual average steps
  • Italy: average daily steps decreased by 28 percent
  • France: average daily steps decreased by 27 percent

Workouts

People's workouts have, as you might expect, changed, with things people can do on their own without equipment gaining ground over things that need gyms or special spaces.. Here are some global trends:

  • Yoga increased by 42 percent
  • Hiking increased by 34 percent
  • Indoor cycling increased 19 percent
  • Running increased by 18 percent
  • Tennis decreased by 66 percent)
  • Swimming decreased by 53 percent
  • Badminton decreased by 50 percent
  • Indoors running decreased by 39 percent

Sleep

How have you been sleeping?

  • United States: sleeping around 12 minutes more per night, going to bed 11 minutes later than usual and getting up 26 minutes later than usual
  • United Kingdom: sleeping an average of 15 minutes more per night, going to bed around 8 minutes earlier than usual and getting up 9 minutes and 25 seconds later than usual
  • Germany: sleeping around 8 minutes and 27 seconds more per night, going to bed almost 11 minutes earlier than usual and getting up 1 minute earlier than usual
  • China: slept an average of 17 minutes and 25 seconds more per night during self-isolation, going to bed 12 minutes and 38 seconds later than usual and getting up around 32 minutes later than usual
  • Italy: sleeping around 17 minutes and 39 seconds more per night, going to bed 2 minutes and 23 seconds later than usual and getting up 23 minutes later than usual
  • France: had an average of 20 minutes and 40 seconds more sleep each night, going to bed less than a minute earlier than usual and getting up 23 minutes and 27 seconds later than usual

Withings notes that it's interesting that the country that has gained the least weight (France) has also seen the biggest sleep increase, since the effect of sleep on weight is something the company has seen before.

Heart rate

You might expect that all the disruption and fear around the coronavirus pandemic might have put people on edge, but according to the data, during self-isolation people have had fewer sleep heart rate anomalies or irregularities, especially on the weekends.

  • United States: night heart rate anomalies have decreased by 43 percent during the weekends and 34 percent during the week
  • United Kingdom: night heart rate anomalies have decreased by 44 percent during the weekends and 38 percent during the week
  • Germany: night heart rate anomalies have decreased by 44 percent during the weekends and 27 percent during the week
  • China: night heart rate anomalies have decreased by 30 percent during the weekends and oddly increased by 3 percent during the week
  • Italy: night heart rate anomalies have decreased by 66 percent during the weekends and 54 percent during the week
  • France: night heart rate anomalies have decreased by 60 percent during the weekends and 50 percent during the week

How did Withings collect this data?

This study was conducted by analyzing the anonymous aggregated data from over 2 million users. So that this data would accurately represent the self-isolation period for each country, paying attention to each country's start date for self-isolation and included data from that date to April 18, 2020. The self-isolation data was compared to aggregated data from January 1, 2020 to the self-isolation date for each country.

What's been your experience of the coronavirus pandemic? Feel free to share your thoughts below.