Most of us have been joking about how the buttons of our trouser button has started social distancing from the buttonhole during the past couple of months, and some have actually put on weight…as seen in the adorably funny video below of the kindergartener who packed on a few pounds during the lockdown period in Henan, China and was having trouble wearing his school uniform.
However, interesting data has come out of Singapore. Are we actually improving our overall health despite being stuck at home most of the time?
Improved heart health
Fitbit shared some insights gleaned from anonymised and aggregated global user data, with the key highlight that Singaporean users’ resting heart rate – a key indicator of heart health – improved from January to April 2020, despite a significant decrease in overall daily step count due to Circuit Breaker restrictions on movement. The average resting heart rate in Singapore lowered (improved) across all demographics, but this improvement was more pronounced for younger users between 18 – 29 years old, and in female users.
Resting heart rate, the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re still and at rest, is an important indicator of one’s fitness level and overall heart health. Not only can it be used to track your fitness level, it can also alert you of potential health issues such as high stress levels, sleep depravation, dehydration, overtraining and underlying medical conditions.
So while there was a decrease in step count (by 2,240 steps a day) and active minutes (by 3.66 minutes a day) during the “circuit breaker” period in Singapore, there was a decrease in resting heart rate as well. This is positive news and indicates that there are more factors contributing to this decline.
The two trends that could be possibly contributing to the decline are:
Longer sleep duration
Singaporeans’ average sleep duration has increased during the “circuit breaker” period, where we are getting an additional 19.21 minutes every night. Perhaps this is because most of us who are now working from home are able to save on the commuting time and getting a bit more shut-eye. This is great news, especially because not getting enough sleep is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Improvements in bedtime variability
During normal times, people (particularly young people) tend to go to bed later on the weekends, often leading to social jetlag, which can impact heart health. However, Singaporeans are now going to bed at a more consistent time during the “circuit breaker” period and data from Fitbit has shown that the bedtime variability has reduced by 8.2 minutes.
More active exercisers
According to a new, ongoing research study¹ by ASICS, about 36% of regular exercisers² (out of 14,000 across 12 countries) around the world are now more active now than before the global lockdown. Figures from the fitness-tracking app Runkeeper™³ show that runners of every level are clocking up more strides, more often. During April, the app saw a 252% rise in registrations globally and a 44% increase in monthly active users compared to the same time last year.
The study also reveals that for the majority of users, this activity surge is down to more than just physical health. 67% say exercise helps them cope mentally when faced with challenging situations like the one we are in now; while 79% of runners insist that being active is making them feel saner and more in control. And this is definitely important for one’s mental health and to lower stress levels, which will improve one’s overall health.
More importantly, the research shows that nearly three quarters of these runners plan to stick with their new exercise routine. 73% of the runners interviewed said that they want to continue running as much as they are now after the Covid-19 pandemic comes to an end, and 62% of those who took up running after the crisis started said that they plan on sticking with it in the future.
For expert advice, training plans and more information about how to run, people can follow #RunToFeel or visit http://www.asics.com/sg/en-sg/mk/run-to-feel.
While the data presented looks as if we’re generally getting healthier during this lockdown period, let’s put things into a little more context. The data is based on those who are Fitbit and fitness-tracker app users, which means that these people are already more concerned about their health and wellness. It would be interesting to see general population’s data, with various health indicators/metrics to then make a proper conclusion as to whether Singaporeans have generally gotten healthier post “circuit breaker”.
Nonetheless, these findings are very encouraging and are an indication that health and wellness remain a priority even while people have remained largely indoors.
¹Initial results from live study of 14,000 regular exercisers in total across 12 markets, all aged 18-64 and exercise at least once a week. Each market had 1,000 respondents unless specified. Markets: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom (2,000) and United States (2,000).
²People who exercise at least once a week.
³Runkeeper™ User Trends | Running in the Era of COVID-19, May 2020
Images: Fitbit and ASICS