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The Impact of Coronavirus on Global Activity (fitbit.com)
75 points by ApicalDendrite 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments





Anecdotally, the only people I know in the UK who wear fitbits these days are retirees.

I have seen a huge increase in the number of people out and about running. Perhaps they all ran on treadmills at the gym before (we are permitted to leave the house once a day for a run/walk/cycle), but from my anecdata I've seen perhaps a 5x to 10x increase in other runners out when I am running in London so a drop in activity does not tally with my personal and limited observations.

It would not surprise me one jot to see that retirees (i.e. those most vulnerable to corvid) are not out and moving around as much.


I've noticed far more people running where I live in the U.S., too. Today, it was cold and raining, and runners were everywhere. Ordinarily, I'd have expected to be the only one.

We make 3D virtual world maps for outdoor sports, and our API is built into a few different sports tracking apps, so I can give a bit of insight across a spectrum of different brands (without giving any details about who may be down more than others).

This is normally a high-growth time of year for us and February had started out REALLY well for us. We started to see a bit of a flattening of growth, and then March hit.

We're down 30% week on week for the past two weeks. This is amalgamated across visitors to our own site as well as the our API customers users. Everyone is being hit.

Most users come from the USA and Europe (France, Spain, UK, and Italy in particular).

A bunch of race events also use our tech, and of course, that has all disappeared.


Personally my time spent exercising has increased. I'm working from home, without spending hours a day commuting and I'm allowed to exercise outside in the UK so every few days I run 5 miles.

I wonder if the trends are hiding larger swings in both directions.


Same here. We discovered that we have a park 5min walk from home so we go there every day to play tennis and badminton.

To add one more possible partial explanation to the list:

Back when I wore a fitness tracker, I typically didn't bother to put it on when I was staying home, including work from home days. It stays on the dresser next to my wallet, which doesn't get put in my pocket when I'm staying home.

I am going for long walks several times a day, in order to ensure I'm getting my exercise. I'm just not bothering to bring anything other than my house keys and maybe my cell phone when I do it.


Fascinating. To be honest I'm surprised the declines aren't more significant. I guess it just goes to show how sedentary many of our lives already are xD

I'm going to make a wild bet that active FitBit users are not representative of the population on that matter, and will try to maintain a higher level of activity.

Fitbit users are probably more representative than Apple or Garmin users. Apple Watches are a lot more expensive, and Garmin markets more towards athletes.

Smartwatch users are not representative, forget about the brands.

I can tell you that while I am most of time at home and we shop as rarely as possible, I am exercising more then before. To keep sane and healthy. And we go outside every day when we see no one is there for the same reason.

I was wondering when something like this would come out. It would be interesting to see other stats like:

- Screen time usage - Air quality over time - Baby births (in 9 months) - Etc.

I'm sure we'll see more of this in due time.


I wouldn’t be surprised if the increase in births outweighs the number of deaths.


> ¹Some of the year-over-year change in activity may be due to weather or shift in holiday schedules.

Yeah that's going to be particularly significant for certain countries. Obviously globally, the year-over-year trend is significant, but if you're going to plot it in such a way that emphasizes certain countries, it would be good to know if e.g. Spain also had rain this past week but not this week last year.


If you eat less, you can exercise less, some yoga is perfect for example. You could also take profit of that time to fast a bit

As an athlete, I'm not surprised by these results. Most people are sedentary and step counting only goes so far to improve their health. Even in Italy, as shown in the article's graph, the decline has been 25%. If the recommended goal 10,000 steps per day then 7,500 is still a good number to hit during a pandemic.

I would be very surprised that the average number of steps across their userbase has uniformly decreased for all users.

For example we could imagine the scenario where some people were able to keep their habit and did not have a great decrease in step numbers, while some other sub-groups have become sedentary because of the confinement. This would show up as an increase in variance in the number of steps.

Stats are hard and it is very easy to draw a wrong conclusion (that sound right) from aggregated data.


It would be interesting to see if sedentary lifestyle causes of death go up if the lockdowns are prolonged.

Prolonged for 10-20 years? I can’t see even 12 months of sedentary lifestyle moving the needle much if at all.

This is about physical activity, not economic as I first assumed.

It's also pretty much an advert "Try a free 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium"

Also there may be an issue of privacy WRT your personal data, even if this is aggregated and anonymised for this particular article.


How does fit bit have this information? What is their privacy policy?

How is this different than trends.google.com? It's aggregated and anonymous data, not personal data. Their privacy policy is the first result if you search for "fitbit privacy policy". It's incredibly easy to navigate and they clearly have taken pains to make it understandable and clear: https://www.fitbit.com/us/legal/privacy-policy

Don't you remember when they released the movement paths of everyone globally and it was possible to see the location of military bases, based on activity, even though the data was "anonymized"?

That was Strava, not Fitbit.

I am using my one exercise unit a day to make sure I keep my steps/walk/runs up. (Although not on fitbit)

I haven't even worn my Fitbit since I've been sidelined and forced to work remote/never go out.

Try a free 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium

No, thank you.


Why do fitbit have this data?

That's a misleading title. This is the change in step counts around the world over 12 weeks from 2019/2020 from one fitness product manufacturer's data. That's a very selective group. Sure, it's data from people all over the globe, but it's a very select non-representative group. But that doesn't mean these people aren't doing workouts at home that don't pad their step count stats.

> We’ve laid out the data—now we want to provide you with some tips to stay healthy and active

Great segue! I read that as "We know this data isn't interesting that's why all we could do is lay it out. This is our attempt of monetizing our precious data by creating a clever way to push our product."

This just seems yet another company using COVID-19 to generate profit by offering a free limited trial of their paid service. They also promote a hand-washing app. I find that pretty hilarious. If you can remember to use the app you can remember to count on your own.




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