The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we behave as a society in a number of ways. With many of us spending so much more time at home and away from others, what impact has this had on how we exercise and work out?
A recent study examined data from 50,000 WHOOP members between January 1 and May 15 of this year, including over 4.9 million workouts logged in our system. This allowed for a comparison of exercise and fitness behaviors over equal durations of time from before most of us were socially distancing and living in quarantine, and while it was happening. March 9 was used as the cutoff date, the week the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 as a pandemic and the US declared a national state of emergency.
The study looked at the six most popular forms of exercise people record with WHOOP: Running, functional fitness, weightlifting, cycling, swimming and walking. It tracked the relative frequency of each activity on a daily basis (the percent change in frequency day by day compared to the daily average for the entire time period).
As you can see in the graphic below, there was a significant uptick in running, cycling and walking activities logged once social distancing began.
Walking took the biggest jump, followed by running and cycling. The spikes on the graph show increased participation in all three activities on weekends, which for the most part continued to hold true during quarantine.
However, with running in particular, the frequency of weekday and weekend participation became a lot more similar. Potentially a lack of commuting, or simply not physically going to work, gave runners more opportunity to get outside and go for a jog during the week.
It’s no surprise that the three activities people started doing more of are all individual forms of exercise that happen outdoors–a needed break from being stuck inside for most of the day. Additionally functional fitness, which for many of our members was often a solo workout taking place at home to begin with, saw little change in frequency due to quarantine.
On the other hand, weightlifting and swimming saw significant decreases in participation once people started socially distancing, no doubt coinciding with the closures of gyms and athletic facilities.
Overall, the sample of 50,000 WHOOP members exercised 1.1% more often once quarantine began than they did previously. With many of our standard social activities no longer available, it makes sense that people would turn to working out to pass the time.
It’s also worth noting that exercise modalities like running and cycling which are compliant with social distancing are activities that require a high cardiovascular load. The study found that on average people spent 1.8% more time working out in their three highest heart rate zones in quarantine.
Beyond exercising more often and at a higher level of intensity while socially distancing, the study also discovered improvements in several key physiological markers that WHOOP tracks, including sleep, resting heart rate and heart rate variability.
To learn more, check out: Positive Changes in WHOOP Data During COVID-19 Social Distancing.