Covid-19’s Effect on Global Physical Activity, and How To Stay Active

We looked at how the Covid-19 pandemic affected daily steps of our users across the globe. Here are some findings.


By Azumio Inc


We looked at how the Covid-19 pandemic affected daily steps of our users across the globe. Here are some findings.

As of Thursday, April 2nd, 38 US States have advised citizens to shelter in place and to only leave their homes for necessities such as buying groceries and medicine. As a result of the shelter in place order, many non-essential businesses have had to temporarily close. In an effort of many companies to remain operational and still engage with their customers, meetings are being held online using platforms like Zoom, and fitness studios are offering free virtual classes taught by instructors via Instagram Live.

Despite our best efforts to create a sense of “normal” during this difficult time, one thing is being greatly affected: our activity levels. We took data from users across Azumio’s different health apps — Argus, Instant Heart Rate, and Fitness Buddy — to analyze and compare how activity levels have changed across the globe during the pandemic. Let’s take a look at some of those numbers for context.

The World Health Organization characterized Covid-19 as a global pandemic on March 11th. From the graph above, it’s easy to see that in just one or two days, activity levels across the United States dropped dramatically. The average number of steps taken per day in the US has reduced from around 5-6000 to a mere 4000 and lower in some cases. New York City, the center of the country’s outbreak, seemed to be hit the worst, with a peak of almost 8000 steps on average in early March, and a trough dipping below 3000 by March 23rd.

The correlation comes from how strict the quarantine measures are in each location. The stricter the measures, the better the virus is kept under control, but the worse our activity levels seem to become. The statistics look similar around the globe, with a similar drop in activity over in Europe.

Spain, Italy, and France had the most drastic measures put in place to halt the spread of the virus, and therefore, the most significant change in activity levels. Spain’s Prime Minister announced a state of emergency on March 14th, confining people to their homes and only allowing travel for essential shopping, work, or medical needs, with fines starting at €100 for any other reason to be away from home. At this point, the activity levels for Spain took a huge slash in numbers.

Over in the UK, movement was only fully restricted on March 23rd, meaning British levels of activity stayed relatively stable until then, when we can see a reduction too, but not to the same extent as mainland Europe. On the other hand, you’ll notice that Sweden’s activity levels have not experienced a significant drop. For the time being, all businesses there are remaining open, although the government has issued a ban on gatherings exceeding 50 people and advised restaurants and bars to seat all of their customers to avoid crowding.

Thankfully, the growth of active Covid-19 cases has slowed in certain Asian countries. South Korea and Japan’s activity levels have remained relatively stable over the past two months. Both of these Asian countries were able to keep businesses such as shopping malls and restaurants open while treating those infected and combating the spread of the virus, which explains the minimal change in activity level.

Other Asian countries, however, have had to issue more draconian measures in the interest of protecting their residents. On March 24th, India’s Prime Minister announced a three week lockdown, requiring 1.3 billion citizens to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This explains the sharp decline in activity around this date.

Of course, lockdowns and quarantines during this global pandemic are of the utmost importance — after all, they help to reduce the spread of Covid-19. But the entire population of countries, even those not affected by the virus, have seen drastic changes to their way of life.

So how can we keep our fitness levels up and our immune system ready to fight the disease during this time? While you might not be able to go to the gym or visit your personal trainer like usual, there are still a whole range of activities you can do from your backyard, your living room, or even your bedroom!

The World Health Organization and American Health Association recommend healthy individuals to engage in 30 minutes of moderately intense activity five times a week. To stay active while at home, you’ll be able to find a lot of home-friendly workouts on YouTube and different apps. Businesses in the health and fitness industry recognize the difficulties of staying active during this time, and have adopted and created content for people to utilize and stay fit while at home!

Main Photo Credit: Andrew V Marcus/