The coronavirus is not, actually, making us eat, drink and sleep more


Despite the added stress, new work-from-home mandates, and self-quarantining as a result of COVID-19, workers are still getting things done.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, mandates and guidelines to self-isolate have upended the workplace and economy, and have transformed social behavior. Sheltering-in-place during COVID-19 has been the primary way to contain the spread of the disease and flatten the curve––but it is also taking a toll on workers across the globe. 

Is the stress of self-isolation a cause for increased drinking, eating, and napping? Is it decreasing productivity? While intuitively, this prediction might make sense, it is not borne out by the data––according to new study from Withings, which culled together reports on the physical activity, weight and sleep habits of 2 million people across the globe during self-isolation.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

The study looked at how the behavior of Americans during COVID-19 stacks up against other countries in the world, using smart-scaled movement tracking devices, and sleep monitors. It pulled data from hundreds of thousands of people in countries––including at least 100,000 people from the UK, France, China, Germany, Italy, and the US––to find out how self-isolation is affecting people’s health differently. 

Here’s what the report found:

  • Weight gain: Despite the flood of Instagram posts of elaborate meals and bread baking, Americans are (for the most part) maintaining their weight. In the US, just over a third (37%) of those monitored gained more than a pound. And on average, the weight gain is negligible: .21 pounds.

  • Steps: Americans are decreasing their step count––but just barely, only 7%, on average. (Globally, the decrease is 12%). The states with stricter isolation guidelines, like New York, are also the places where steps have decreased the most––22% in this case. However, there’s good news: In some states, like Indiana, steps have increased––there, by 16%. On average, step counts in all of the other countries surveyed also decreased.

  • Online workouts: It may not be a surprise, but exercise by YouTube is en vogue. Practicing yoga has gone up by 42%. A third (34%) are increasing hiking, more people are cycling (19%) and 19% more people are running. Any kind of physical activities involving a gym or courtyards has seen a decrease––such as swimming, tennis, badminton, and indoor running.

  • Shut-eye: Increased flexibility and proximity to our mattresses has not translated in more sleep. Americans are going to bed 11 minutes later and sleeping 12 minutes more than before self-isolation, on average––and waking up 26 minutes later than usual. The report’s sleep score, which measures duration of sleep, regularity, and the number of interruptions, also shows that for Americans, the Withings sleep score has gone up 2 points during self-isolation. 

  • Heart rate: During self-isolation, overnight heart rates are leveling out––meaning fewer irregularities. For Americans, there’s been 43% decrease in anomalies over the weekend and 34% on weeknights––just about in line with global statistics, which show a decrease of 45% on weekends and 34% on weeknights.

  • Heat: As more people are taking their temperature––WithingsThermo detected three times the use since the start of the outbreak––temperatures, perhaps surprisingly, have not fluctuated from the average.

Also see

Woman watching sports training online on laptop.

Image: jacoblund, Getty Images/iStockphoto


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