September 1, 2022

Physical activity remains lower worldwide than pre-COVID-19

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

This study by researchers at UC San Francisco finds that step counts—a measure of physical activity—were markedly lower early in the COVID-19 pandemic compared to prepandemic, and they remain lower in the 2 years following the onset of the pandemic.

The researchers used data collected from the Azumio Argus smartphone app on 1,255,811 individuals from more than 200 countries. A total of 140,424,429 daily step count measurements were provided from January 1, 2019 to February 17, 2022.

Among the findings:

  • Physical activity has recovered somewhat but remains lower than the 2019 calendar year prepandemic 5,323 steps per day.
  • The mean step count 90 days before the end of the study period was significantly lower for all countries compared with the prepandemic period.
  • May to November 2021 exhibited the greatest global recovery of steps counts (4,997 steps per day) since the start of the pandemic, but counts remained 10% lower than the global prepandemic baseline of 5,574 steps per day, with regional variation.
  • Step counts recovered the most in North America (4% lower than baseline) and Europe (14% lower), and the least in South America (29% lower) and Asia (30% lower).

As the global pandemic persists, it is important to understand its long-term ramifications on physical activity, the authors say.

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