Covid-19 pushes people to boost health, wellbeing

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Covid-19 pushes people to boost health, wellbeing. Picture: Getty Images / Gallo Images
Covid-19 pushes people to boost health, wellbeing. Picture: Getty Images / Gallo Images


At least something good has come out of the lockdown. A survey by consumer electronics and fitness company Fitbit has revealed that people are focusing more on improving their health and wellbeing, and are getting more sleep.

The survey, however, also found that even though most of the 1 002 respondents who were interviewed in South Africa developed healthier habits during the first wave of the pandemic, there were new health challenges such as increased stress, as 66% said that their stress levels were higher as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Respondents were asked to share their perception of their personal health, stress and lifestyle habits in the wake of Covid-19, and this research was analysed alongside anonymous and aggregated Fitbit user data from February 24 to August 29. It assessed sleep, activity and step data.

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The survey found that 27% of South African participants were paying some attention to their personal health prior to Covid-19, but now, as people are learning to live with the pandemic in the longer term, more than half of the respondents in the United Arab Emirates (83%) stated that they were prioritising their personal health now more than ever.

Prateek Kewalramani, Fitbit’s senior manager for Middle East and Africa, said the external research, when paired with Fitbit user data, indicated that the South African population was keen to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

At the start of the pandemic, daily routines were turned upside down. South African survey participants said they took steps to improve their personal health.

“[They] are taking positive steps towards improving their personal overall wellbeing. We feel that Covid-19-related changes have given an opportunity to people to slow down and take necessary actions around improving personal health and wellness,” Kewalramani said.

The research advises that, since the number of dailyCovid-19 cases has increased again, people must take the positives and lessons of their personal health from the first wave of lockdown to help guide and improve their overall health and wellbeing through the coming months.

“At the start of the pandemic, daily routines were turned upside down. South African survey participants said they took steps to improve their personal health.”

The survey found that:
  • More than half (58%) of consumers had developed healthier personal habits and behaviours since the start of the pandemic;
  • Changes were most notable in younger age groups in South Africa, with 63% of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed claiming to have developed healthier habits, compared with 50% of those older than 55;
  • Sleep was one of the biggest positive changes noted, as improvements in sleep were seen in more than half of the responses, with survey participants (55%) getting a longer night’s rest;
  • Some respondents improved their sleep practices by going to bed earlier (40%) and getting up earlier (36%); and
  • Although some women respondents in South Africa (46%) reported feeling like their sleep had been negatively affected by stress, they were still sleeping longer and keeping a better sleep routine.

“Similar optimistic trends were also observed in Fitbit user data for South Africa, such as the duration of sleep that increased by an average of longer than 20 minutes per night, compared with the same period last year. In particular, women between 18 and 29 were able to get an additional 29 minutes of sleep per night during lockdown,” he said.

Better sleep, Kewalramani said, could be looked at as a silver lining regarding the pandemic if such a trend continues for longer.

The research demonstrates that many people are looking to form new, healthier habits that they can maintain with some additional support and stress management resources.

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A downside, though, was that during lockdown people were becoming more sedentary.

Activities other than exercising dropped as a result of missing routines such as walking kids to school or to a bus stop and taking the stairs at work.

Happiest countries

“While some United Arab Emirates survey respondents reported increased levels of exercise and activity due to the extra time they had at home, Fitbit data has proven that we may not be as active as we thought,” Kewalramani said.

The research also found that 70% of those aged 18 to 24 experienced increased levels of stress.

Working from home brought more stress due to the inability to differentiate between work and personal life. More than half of respondents (55%) said they struggled to distinguish between working days and the weekend.

“About 45% of people stated that they had worked more hours while working from home, and nearly a quarter (28%) felt that their mental wellness had been negatively affected as a result of working from home,” the research found.


Sizwe sama Yende 


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