Daily Step Counts Declined With Onset of Pandemic

In HealthDay News
by Healthday

Factors including vaccination status, depression, psychological stress partially explain reduction in step counts

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 28, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Following onset of COVID-19, there was a decrease in activity, represented by a reduction in daily step counts, according to a research letter published online March 20 in JAMA Network Open.

Stacy Desine, from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and colleagues examined daily steps over four years from January 2018 through December 2021 for 5,443 participants with valid Fitbit data. Based on two years of activity preceding COVID-19, postpandemic steps were estimated in a counterfactual analysis. Differences in observed and estimated post-COVID-19 daily steps were examined.

The researchers found that the median observed daily steps counts were 7,808 and 7,089 pre- and post-COVID-19 (Jan. 1, 2018, to Jan. 31, 2020; and June 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021), respectively. Participants walked 575 fewer steps per day post-COVID-19, with the difference between observed and estimated steps significantly explained by younger age (β = −243 per 10-year decrease), Northeast versus other regions (β = −288), and higher deprivation index (β = −477 per 0.1 increment). COVID-19 vaccination status (β = 48 for vaccinated versus unvaccinated), depression (β = −36 per 1 score increment), and psychological stress (β = −13 per 1 score increment) also explained post-COVID-19 step counts.

“We found a statistically significant decline in daily step counts that persisted even after most COVID-19-related restrictions were relaxed, suggesting COVID-19 affected long-term behavioral choices,” the authors write.

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