News & Insights 5 May 2020

How has COVID-19 changed our activity levels?

The past few weeks have felt very surreal as we all come to terms with the new reality of everyday life, which for many of us, is limited to the confines of our own homes. The government have acknowledged that ‘lockdown’ is highly likely to have a detrimental effect on both physical and mental wellbeing, owed to the restrictions on movement and social distancing measures in place. Whether you’re retired, working from home, on furlough, or off school, the current restrictions imposed on daily life are naturally going to have an impact on your physical activity. At KiActiv® we are uniquely placed to analyse how physical activity habits have shifted as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

We know physical activity is multi-dimensional, which allows us to measure the changes that have occurred to our normal routines at every intensity. We looked at real-life physical activity data from our users across a three-week period between the 9th March to the 29th March to analyse the changes. For context, social distancing measures were first introduced on the 16th March, with the prime minister introducing stricter lockdown measures on the 23rd March.

What we saw was a slight decrease in non-sedentary time, perhaps due to the loss of movement associated with everyday activities such as the school run and the daily commute. But what about high intensity activities? With gyms closed and team sports cancelled for the foreseeable future, you would be forgiven for predicting a decrease here as well. Surprisingly, we found that on average, our users improved their moderate bouts by just over 60 minutes per week between the initial baseline week and the first week of lockdown. The same activity can be performed at different intensities depending on the individual, so it is impossible to give a blanket reason behind such improvements. However, what this does show us is that it is possible not just to maintain our activity levels, but actually make improvements, all despite the draconian measures we are currently living with.

Unfortunately, official government advice continues to ignore the multi-dimensional nature of physical activity, instead conforming to the ‘exercise’ narrative. Much of the advice has been focussed on the single ‘dose’ of exercise permitted daily, such as a run, walk or cycle ride. In doing so, they are making the benefits of physical activity seem inaccessible to many across the country, particularly for those considered ‘vulnerable’ who have been asked to self-isolate inside their homes. Others have turned to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, such as those broadcasted on YouTube by the self-dubbed ‘nation’s P.E. teacher,’ Joe Wicks. Whilst HIIT is a great way to maintain physical activity levels for some, it may not appeal to the majority and is a potential source of injury, particularly if activities are performed incorrectly or if your body is not used to regular vigorous intensity activity.

This reinforces why it is now more important than ever to recognise that physical activity is multi-dimensional, and so there are many different options available to us to stay active and healthy at home. Everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning and gardening are just a few of the activities you can do to keep moving, for other ideas, see our blog on how to keep moving at home here.

The KiActiv® Team