Healthy Living During a Pandemic
Pandemic or not, it takes discipline and commitment to balance our diet or break a sweat. So, how has COVID-19 affected Americans’ collective wellness? Our team surveyed individuals across the United States to find out.
From learning how to bake low-carb bread to signing up for cyber fitness classes, many of us spent 2020 exploring healthy, home-based activities while surviving the coronavirus pandemic. But even after a day of the healthiest eating and exercising to get our heart rate up, it’s difficult to not want a reward like some candy or a glass of wine. And how easy it is to convince ourselves we worked hard enough to take the rest of the week off.
If coronavirus weight gain is a challenge you are facing, then take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. It is the plight of many Americans (and we’ve got the data to prove it). Did you, like the rest of us, start 2021 with New Year’s resolutions that included taking back control over your weight and your health? No, don’t answer that! It doesn’t matter! It’s not too late to reset and shake off that coronavirus weight!
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of healthy living in the COVID-19 era, let’s look at how many employees stayed at home and how many made the trek to their offices (Also, take note, there is a third group identified on the graph whose offices already had a remote work policy in place prior to the pandemic).
Overall, team Work From Home (WFH) made up the majority, which is not surprising given the stay-at-home orders in different regions and states. So, which group do you belong to?
Does remote work lead to weight loss?
As the holiday cheer faded away, along with its spread of dishes and decadent desserts, you might have noticed your WFH pajamas getting tighter. Maybe it’s time to trade the Girl Scout cookies this season for healthier options — but it’s still a hard no to a sad desk salad, please! The fact remains, though, whatever you scarf down between Zoom meetings could add up to a few pounds, and then a few more, and then a few more … you get the drill.
And speaking of putting on some pounds, the remote workers did not disappoint. As if the trip from work desk to kitchen was not getting them enough exercise, they seemed to want to outdo each other in a race to achieve the highest possible weight gain in a pandemic. So far, many team WFH members tipped the scale with additional 30+ pounds. On the other hand, non-remote workers were business-as-usual and seemed to manage their weight more sustainably.
If you’re one of the people who packed on a few extra pounds, you’ve probably been scouring the internet for diet ideas. After all, now’s the best time to try something new. Spending more time at home — and, specifically, in the kitchen (hello, new home chefs!) — is conducive to exploring, expanding on or experimenting with meal plans and recipes.
You’re off to a good start with the vegetarian diet, which topped our list of quarantine eating plans. Another popular choice was ever-trendy intermittent fasting. And we have a few runners-up in diets people love to debate over: low-carb, keto and vegan.
Does working remote lead to more workouts?
What’s a great diet if it’s not accompanied by some heart-pumping workouts? It’s been a while, but wouldn’t it be nice to dust off and swing around those kettlebells again (lift today and maybe swing tomorrow)? In these strange and unfamiliar circumstances, it’s understandable why Americans are exercising less. Leaving home is hard enough, and there are fewer places to go to for a workout with gyms, fitness centers and sports clubs staying closed (or closing down) and/or limiting capacity because of social distancing.
But if you’re from Mississippi, you’re not like most Americans. People in the Magnolia State revealed they’ve increased their exercise activities — the only respondents to say they were moving more than they used to. Oh, the irony: Mississippi recently ranked No. 1 among all states for the highest adult obesity rate at a whopping — no, not Whopper® — 40.8 percent.
In less surprising news on the workout front, more than half of all states dramatically reduced their physical activity while the rest managed to maintain, seeing just a slight decrease in exercise levels.
New exercise trends
There’s hope on the horizon, though. While an interest in exercise waned, people took lockdown as an opportunity to try out new activities. Biking was a crowd favorite, likely because it can be done outdoors and far away from the masses, followed by strength-building exercises using your own body weight (burpees, anyone?) and walking.
It’s no wonder the pandemic saw a surge in demand for bicycles and home equipment throughout 2020 as consumers turned their living rooms into mini-gyms (minus the indoor pool, sadly).
Raising anxiety levels
Exercise may have proven effective in lowering anxiety levels, but a full year of living with COVID-19 has, unsurprisingly, had an impact on Americans’ mental wellbeing. Are you feeling stressed out about your health, family, work and the future? You’re not alone. In general, anxiety levels increased among our survey respondents and were highest among people in the 65+ age bracket.
But some of our respondents were battling with more than anxiety. When it comes to depression during the pandemic, there was a notable rise in self-reported instances. This time, it’s the younger generation who took a hit, particularly the 25-34 age group. Stressful environments, not unlike what we currently find ourselves facing, can increase the risk of developing depression. Learning to manage your stress and anxiety in a healthy way can minimize its impact on your day-to-day.
Every homebound individual copes with the effects of the pandemic differently. Some hop on the home cooking trend while others secure sources of safe and nutritious takeout. However, exercising and weight loss also require additional attention. Our survey results showed staying healthy during the COVID-19 crisis takes conscious effort, maybe even a little more than before. Now that we have the facts, we can start improving our health and fitness habits — but that doesn’t mean we’ll be waving goodbye to the post-dinner cookie anytime soon!
We surveyed 2,000 Americans to find out how the pandemic, lock-downs and a shift to remote work have impacted their mental and physical health. We utilized Amazon’s Mturk and SurveyMonkey to collect responses and analyzed the data using a mix of Tableau and Excel. We decided to run this self-report study after an internal discussion about the pandemic got us thinking about how it has impacted us as remote employees. Wyoming and Vermont are left intentionally blank on state-level analysis as we did not garner a statistically significant amount of responses to accurately display information regarding changes in exercise levels and favorite exercises.