Like clockwork, millions of people set resolutions for themselves as a tradition for ringing in the new year. While many of the goals people set for themselves at the start of a new year are health-related (to quit smoking, lose weight, eat better), most of those resolutions have fallen apart by the time we reach the summer months (if not sooner).
According to one expert, believing in yourself makes you 10 times more likely to make a positive shift based on your New Year’s resolutions than those who set their goals expecting to fail. In 2020, we may have an even more tangible motivation to change our health habits: COVID-19.
COVID-19 is still a relatively new virus, but research shows people (regardless of age) with certain underlying medical conditions are at an increased risk for severe illness from the disease. To understand how COVID-19 has changed the gravity with which people consider their own health, we surveyed over 1,000 people about the changes they’ve made to their habits and routines to be healthier, in case they were to contract COVID-19. Read on as we break down how many people are making improvements to their health; the methods they’re adopting; the bad habits they’re cutting; and how being isolated during COVID-19 has impacted their health goals.
Focusing on Healthy Habits
Since lockdown began in March 2020, 82% of people surveyed acknowledged making attempts to improve their health.
While most people were motivated to get healthier because they suddenly found themselves with more downtime than usual (52%), 39% said they wanted to save money from forgoing unhealthy spending, and 34% admitted the pandemic was making them think more about mortality and that they wanted to be healthy in case of a COVID-19 infection.
For those concerned about contracting COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified that the risk for severe illness increases with age. As we found, Generation X adults were more concerned about mortality as a result of the pandemic (42%), but baby boomers were more likely to adopt healthier habits for fear of contracting the virus.
More than half of people (56%) indicated their more important goal during the COVID-19 lockdown was to improve their overall health. While less common, 18% of respondents wanted to improve their mental health or emotional well-being, and 15% wanted to improve their immunity.
Making Positive Changes During the Pandemic
Whether you suddenly have more time on your hands than usual or you’re looking to cut back on unhealthy spending, improving your overall health is a good way to take advantage of the prolonged lockdown caused by the pandemic.
Forty-eight percent of people indicated they either cut back on or completely eliminated processed or fast foods from their diet. Seventeen percent of people quit eating fast and processed foods altogether, saving an average of $73 every month. Other popular habit changes included reducing or quitting drinking soda (39%), reducing or quitting alcohol consumption (33%), and reducing or quitting cigarette smoking (24%). While just 15% of people quit smoking completely, the monthly savings added up to $69. Of the 6% of people who completely quit vaping nicotine, the monthly savings increased to $105. In addition to the preexisting risks of smoking nicotine, new research shows that smoking nearly doubles the rate of COVID-19 progression.
Of course, establishing healthier rhythms in your routines and dieting doesn’t always equate to savings. While you might be able to cut back on junk food spending, people eating healthier since lockdown began reported spending an additional $139 a month. Those incorporating vitamins and supplements into their routine reported an additional $83 in monthly spending, on average.
Generationally, millennials (18%) were the most likely age group to quit smoking during the pandemic, followed by Generation X respondents (10%) and baby boomers (9%). While baby boomers were the least likely generation to report eliminating the bad habits we asked about, Gen Xers were the most likely to quit eating processed or fast food (21%), quit drinking soda (14%, tied with millennials), and to quit drinking alcohol (15%).
Still, for some people, the pressure of navigating the pandemic made some of their bad habits more frequent. Thirty-two percent of millennials admitted to drinking more, and 22% acknowledged they were smoking cigarettes more frequently. Alcohol consumption also increased among 31% of Gen Xers and 24% of baby boomers.
The CDC has indicated limiting close contact with others as the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, so social distancing and self-quarantine have become the new normal for millions of Americans learning how to keep a safe six-foot radius wherever possible.
And while prolonged periods of social isolation can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health, some people took the opportunity to make positive changes to their social interactions. One in 3 people indicated they were able to reduce or eliminate toxic people from their life to help improve their health, and more than 4 in 5 said social isolation made those changes easier.
Other positive life impacts during lockdown included increased levels of sleep (72%), starting to exercise or exercising more often (63%), reducing or quitting drinking (60%), and reducing or quitting smoking marijuana (57%). More than half of people (56%) also reported eating more healthy food during lockdown than before, and nearly as many reduced their intake of fast and processed foods (55%). Reducing or quitting smoking cigarettes proved to be one of the most difficult behaviors to change during social isolation, and baby boomers had the hardest time curbing the habit.
Making Lemonade Out of Lockdown
When you were thinking about the goals you wanted to set for yourself at the beginning of 2020, you probably couldn’t anticipate how the year would actually go. And while it can be difficult to see the silver lining in the midst of a global health pandemic, many Americans are doing their best to make positive changes to their health and their habits since lockdown began. Many people reported reducing their intake of fast and processed foods (which also led to saving money), cutting back on alcohol, curbing smoking, and reducing the number of toxic people in their life.
And though improving overall health is the primary goal of most of those who took our survey, getting healthier and more fit isn’t always easy, and sometimes it requires some tools to help you along the way. Let the experts at FitRated.com help create the perfect at-home gym for your health goals, be it improving your cardiovascular function, building muscle, or simply getting more active. Browse thousands of reviews on equipment ranging from treadmills to rowers to build your perfect home gym. Whatever your goals may be for your health, let FitRated.com help you make informed decisions on your equipment needs.
Methodology and Limitations
We surveyed 1,027 people who indicated they were taking steps to improve their health during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Ages of respondents ranged from 18 to 82. The average age of respondents was 38 with a standard deviation of 12 years. Around 12% of respondents were baby boomers, 24% were Generation X, 59% were millennials, and the remaining respondents identified as Generation Z but were not used in analysis due to small sample size.
In order to determine whether respondents’ habits changed during the COVID-19 outbreak, we first asked them to indicate which habits they had before the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset. Then we asked them to indicate how their habit changed in frequency and in resultant spending during the lockdowns.
Survey data have limitations due to self-reporting that include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. We didn’t weight this data or use statistical testing for our findings, as this was a purely exploratory look at preventative health measures taken against COVID-19.
Fair Use Statement
Want to help your readers make positive changes for their health and wellness during lockdown? Share the results of this study for any noncommercial use with the inclusion of a link back to this page in your story as credit to our team for their work compiling this information.