Fitbit research shows ‘Lockdown loop’ as Brits strive to keep healthy during coronavirus

Throughout lockdown the advice has been to keep exercising (Credits: Fitbit)

Fitbit activity trackers are a common sight on the wrists of people out for a walk, jog or cycle around the UK.

As well as helping people reach their own fitness goals, the company (which is soon to be acquired by Google) has built up vast amounts of data on health trends in general.

Over the last few months, millions of Brits have struggled with staying healthy during lockdown. As the measures eased, Boris Johnson spearheaded a drive to combat obesity. And now, research compiled by Fitbit and shared with gives an indication of how we’re all getting on.

Coining the term ‘Lockdown loop’, Fitbit’s data suggests that different areas of our lives are intertwined when it comes to health. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re unlikely to concentrate on nutrition, which may in turn lead to less exercise and, therefore, more stress.

Dr Punam Krishan, NHS GP and Glasgow regional director for the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, said: ‘From the dual perspective of being a GP and a mum, I have seen how lockdown has impacted our health and wellbeing. High levels of stress can impact our sleep which can make us feel sluggish and fatigued, and in turn reduces our energy levels making us less likely to exercise.

‘When we don’t exercise, we intuitively make poorer food choices which locks us into a negative loop that ultimately affects our physical health and emotional and mental wellbeing.’

Fitbit has been analysing anonymous data sourced from its UK user base (Fitbit)

The conclusions of the research came from anonymous and aggregated Fitbit data between March and May 2020, that assessed sleep, activity, stress and nutrition patterns during the lockdown. This was analysed alongside Global Web Index (GWI) general population data in April 2020 that explored consumer attitudes toward personal health in the wake of Covid-19.

In March 2020, Fitbit says its users saw a 9% decline in step count, and 29% of the UK general population said they were exercising less. Yet as the country adjusted to the government mandate to stay at home and only go out once per day to exercise, 6% more Fitbit users exercised one to two times a week in April 2020 compared with April 2019.

This indicated that users had taken positive steps to exercise more purposefully, even though general activity levels were down.

Other key metrics from the research include:

  • 6% more Fitbit users in the UK exercised once or twice per week during lockdown
  • 67% of people who are concerned about exercise and healthy eating reported an increase in stress
  • 32% of Brits reported sleeping less, eating poorly, feeling stressed and exercising less during lockdown
  • 30% of Brits reported sleeping less, yet Fitbit users got more shuteye, with users in London gaining 18 more minutes per night

Whether or not you buy into the idea of Fitbit gadgets motivating you to be more healthy, the company did what it could to help Brits stay fit during lockdown.

Fitbit offered a three-month free subscription to Fitbit Premium during lockdown (Fitbit)

It offered a three-month free subscription to Fitbit Premium (which doesn’t require you to purchase a tracker although it obviously offers greater features) for anyone to access. The service includes meditation and nutrition advice to combat stress.

The company also released the Fitbit Charge 4 fitness tracker which finally added on-board GPS to the popular gadget.

Another element of lockdown that was widely reported was the impact of it on our sleep. Fitbit says it picked up on this as well.

The company reported that while Brits were also feeling the impact of this reduced activity on their sleep, the average Fitbit user saw an average increase in the amount of time they spent asleep. Fitbit says its users in London were getting 18 more minutes per night during March and April 2020 compared to January and February 2020.

Getting just 20 minutes more sleep per night, averaged over a month of tracking, equates to about 10 more hours of sleep in 30 days. Sleeping for longer gives people more chance of combating stress and fatigue because they spend longer in deep and REM sleep.

Getting enough sleep is a key part of staying healthy (Getty Images)

‘This has been an incredibly challenging and stressful period for everyone. It’s been harder than ever to keep up our personal health and fitness habits, but we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves if we let things slide during lockdown,’ said Des Power, SVP, MD Fitbit International.

‘Being on Fitbit allows people to track key elements that can influence the Lockdown Loop. Small changes to your sleep and activity can have profound impacts on your mental health and wellbeing.

‘It’s been great to see that Fitbit has been able to support users throughout this period, not just keeping them on track but helping them make positive changes.’


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