How Garmin Users Prioritize Movement in a Global Pandemic

The onslaught of COVID-19 necessitated an initial slowdown in all physical activity — and then Garmin users found creative and safe ways to keep moving.

It’s tempting to consider 2020 relegated to the rearview mirror, but the truth is that we’ll be studying it for decades to come — not only because of the onslaught of COVID-19, but also because of the myriad ways in which human behavior changed as a result. But at Garmin, we’ve got some special insights into those human behaviors thanks to Garmin Connect™, the interactive tool used by millions of fitness lovers around the globe to track, analyze, and share health and fitness activities.

It would’ve been easy to throw in the towel this year. When the world locks down — when gyms close and schools go virtual and jobs are suddenly remote — it’s easy to skip the workout. Exercise often gets put on the back burner even in the best of circumstances, and 2020 was, well, not exactly ideal. And for a brief moment, that’s exactly what happened. COVID-19 hit the scene and Garmin users sat still along with the rest of the world — until you didn’t.

What the Garmin Connect data shows — in every activity logged and every accomplishment achieved — is that you adapted. Stuck at home? Fine. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck on the couch. You got more intentional with your activities, and you found ways to engage your bodies — even if it meant pushing the coffee table out of the way for room to roll out a yoga mat or simply running in place. In your own way, and while keeping yourself and your fellow humans safe, you took charge. You showed up, you logged in, and you prioritized yourself and your wellness again and again. You fought back.

And so, without further ado, here’s how Garmin users across the entire globe shifted their movements in 2020.

You logged more activities.

Check out that spike around week 14. Once you got used to the idea that your routine would look different for a while, you started finding new ways to exercise — so much so that you logged an average total of 5% more activities in 2020 than 2019. In spite of all the uncertainty around the globe, from the pandemic to different social and political flashpoints depending on region, you realized you needed to take time for yourself to move your body. You stayed the course, and Garmin users engaged in more activities than ever before as a result.

Percent change in average activities per week
You tried new things.

And they weren’t just the same old activities you’ve always done. Not that there was anything wrong with those to begin with, but we’re guessing most of you don’t have indoor tracks or stair climbers in your home — your options changed. And so you adapted. You tried new things. You got out of your comfort zone and tried new exercises more often. In fact, 8% more Garmin users logged at least two activity types per week in 2020 than in 2019, a clear nod to your dedication to #beatyesterday.

Percent change in users with multiple activity types
You walked a lot.

In a year when many of you were confined to a smaller amount of square footage than normal, you had to really want to walk. And as it turned out, you did. Garmin Connect users logged 55% more walking activities in 2020 than 2019.

Percent change in walking activities per week
But really, it did become harder to get those steps in.

There is no denying that staying at home makes it significantly harder to maintain step counts. But once terms like “quarantine” and “social distancing” gradually became a part of the normal vocabulary, you started finding new routines and began to pull those numbers back up. We know that a 7.31% decrease in average steps from the previous year might normally be a disappointing statistic, but context here is key. You had to work a lot harder for steps this year than normal, and we think the comeback was quite impressive.

Average daily steps
You yoga’d a lot too.

Wow, did you yoga a lot — 93% more than in 2019. You quickly learned that the inherent stress relief and mindfulness that comes with yoga was going to be essential in a year like 2020. And since having Garmin Connect on your wrist means always having a tool to guide you through your practice, regardless of skill or experience levels, that also meant you had help if your initial yogic understanding started and ended with the downward dog pose.

Percent change in yoga activities per week
You built up those muscles.

Despite the initial dip in strength training activities, those also came back with a vengeance and got more popular in 2020 than they were in 2019 — 23% more popular. Garmin Connect data cannot indicate whether you were able to get your hands on some new at-home weight sets or if you started hammer-curling canned goods to pass the time, but either way, we’re here for it.

Percent change in strength training activities per week
You started taking deep breaths.

Look at that spike in Breathwork activities that started during week 12 of 2020. Coincidence? It could be, but we kind of doubt it. Mindful breathing with Garmin wearables can increase awareness, reduce stress, improve mental sharpness, boost work performance or prepare for sleep. Three different Breathwork activity techniques are tranquility, coherence, and relax and focus — all of which we’re guessing you felt like you needed more than ever. Because this is a newer Garmin feature, we don’t have a complete 2019 dataset to show — but the 2020 statistics alone show that, slowly but surely, the average stress levels started to decline in users who were logging at least one Breathwork activity per week.

Percent change in Breathwork activities per week
Percent change in average stress with Breathwork vs. without
But what about my part of the world?

Here’s the thing about having a global audience in a pandemic: We know a lot of you were facing different challenges at different times. Outbreaks lessened and worsened, and restrictions shifted. Some countries faced stricter lockdowns for longer periods of time, while others had citizens who were out and about a bit more. All of the above insights were based on global data as a whole, but we think there’s value in seeing the trends for your specific part of the world too. Plus, who doesn’t love a bit of friendly competition? We’ve pulled the data from the top-10 performing countries in each activity for walking, yoga, strength training and Breathwork.

2020 percentage change: Walking activities per week
2020 percentage change: Yoga activities per week
2020 percentage change: Strength activities per week
2020 percentage change: Breathwork activities per week

The data shows us that despite a few outliers, the trends in each country roughly followed the same path. All of those squiggly lines moving together? They’re more than just statistics. They’re a common thread, and it shows that despite differences in location and regulation, we were all battling the same obstacles in roughly the same ways. (Although, really, it should be noted that France figured out the importance of yoga way faster than the rest of us, and Spain absolutely dominated in strength training toward the beginning of the pandemic. Good for you, France and Spain.)  

So what’s next?

The COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving. Depending on where you live, you may be facing the renewal of lockdowns, or you may have been given the go-ahead to start slowly getting out of the house more. That’s not something we can predict or control. What we can do, however, is keep those healthy habits we built in 2020 on a steady upward trend in 2021. Keep being intentional about those walks. Keep working on that cat-cow stretch. Keep hammer curling your new dumbbells — or your chicken noodle soup. Keep prioritizing your health and wellness, because you deserve it. We’re already pretty confident you’re going to beat yesterday, but if you need some help, look no further than your wrist for all the Garmin tools and features you need to get you there.