New data released by a leading health insurer shows the effect on life expectancy of reduced physical activity during lockdown.
The new data released by Vitality reveals its members saw their life expectancy fall by an average of almost four months (3.8) as a result of a drop off in physical activity levels during the start of the Covid-19 UK lockdown period.
Vitality, which examined exercise tracking data from its 1.3 million members, found people completed 28% fewer physical activity events, which includes cardio sessions, daily step counts, and gym workouts during the two weeks from 16th to 29th March, when the government first advised the UK population to halt all but essential travel and work from home and first implemented full lockdown, compared to the ten weeks from 6th January to 15th March. This was driven most prominently by significant reductions in the number of members achieving their daily step goals of 7,000, 10,000 or 12,500 steps as the population stayed home and ceased gym workouts.
The research found those who previously suffered from poor general health saw a greater drop in life expectancy with a reduction of five months on average. Meanwhile, those who were already fit and healthy saw their life expectancy fall by just 2.4 months, showing the importance of prioritising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The Covid-19 pandemic has put a renewed focus on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, particularly as research has shown that being obese significantly increases the risk of needing hospital treatment for Covid-19.
Recognising that many people would struggle to keep up their activity levels during this time, Vitality at Home was introduced specifically to support members while in lockdown. As part of the programme, members have been given access to online home workout programmes through Peloton and Jennis and the option to have their annual health check at home. By returning to their original exercise levels and keeping them up people can quickly recover these life expectancy losses.
As lockdown measures continue to ease, people are starting to adapt their health and fitness routines leading to the emergence of new trends. Between 1st June and 28th June, Vitality saw that cardio sessions were 45% higher than before lockdown began as more people turned to online workouts or runs in the park with friends. With gyms due to reopen on 25th July, some people will find it easier to build exercise into their days, or kick start a new fitness regime.
Dr Keith Klintworth, Managing Director of VitalityHealth said: “This research highlights the significant impact a reduction in activity has on our life expectancy and a reminder that we all need to look at how we can include exercise into our lives. Covid-19 has undoubtedly had a massive impact on our lives, with many people struggling to balance working from home, managing childcare or other responsibilities, alongside keeping active. Plus, for many people, the pandemic has removed some of the incidental exercise they may have got from walking to the station or going out to grab lunch, or being able to do a gym class before work, or in their lunch break.
“With gyms reopening, some people will find it is easier to plan exercise into their lives, but whether it is a gym class, an online workout or walk around the block at lunch, the virus Covid-19 should be a reminder that we must all find time to prioritise our health and wellbeing.”
The life expectancy impact was calculated using change in the Vitality Age, an independently verified tool that determines individual’s life expectancy based on lifestyle choices – including diet, alcohol consumption and exercise habits – and clinical factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and body-mass index. More information on Vitality’s methodology can be found on their press release which can be read in full here.