Fitbit research reveals renewed focus on health of UAE residents during Covid-19 restrictions

Increase in participants paying a lot more attention to their personal health in the wake of COVID-19 with more than half of them (66%)1 believing they have developed healthier habits and behaviours during the pandemic such as sleeping longer, eating better and being more active

Fitbit research reveals renewed focus on health of UAE residents during Covid-19 restrictions
  • The greatest difference in attention to personal health came from those aged between 25-341
  • However, stress is now a bigger factor than ever before. 92% of those surveyed felt that their stress levels have an impact on their overall personal health and 60% stated that their stress levels have been heightened due to COVID-19, affecting things such as mood and sleep1

Dubai, United Arab Emirates:– According to a recent survey, people are becoming more conscious of their personal health and activity in the wake of local lockdowns and are placing greater priority on improving their health and wellbeing. While most respondents stated that they had developed healthier habits during the first wave of the pandemic, the pandemic has also identified new health challenges, such as an increase in stress. This research was conducted by surveying over 1,000 people across the UAE during the month of August.1 Respondents were asked to share their perception of their personal health, stress and lifestyle habits in the wake of COVID-19. This research was analysed alongside anonymous and aggregated Fitbit user data also from the UAE from 24 February to 29 August 2020, that assessed sleep, activity and step data.2

The survey found that 18% of UAE participants were paying some attention to their personal health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now as we are learning to live longer term with the impact of the pandemic, more than half of respondents in the UAE (55%) stated that they are prioritising their personal health now more than ever.

“The external research along with Fitbit user data has highlighted that the UAE population is now definitely in a mindset to adapt a healthier lifestyle and are making positive changes when it comes to their personal overall wellbeing. The sudden changes to our daily lives due to COVID-19 has given many people an opportunity to slow down and really take actions around improving one' personal health and wellness” said Prateek Kewalramani, Senior Manager of Middle East & Africa at Fitbit. 

First Wave: What We Have Learnt

As the number of daily COVID-19 cases have increased again5, Fitbit is encouraging consumers to take the positives and learnings of their personal health from the first wave of lockdowns to help guide and optimise their overall health and wellbeing throughout the coming months.

During the first wave while daily routines were turned upside down, UAE survey participants said they took steps to improve their personal health.

  • More than half (66%) of consumers surveyed have experienced a positive change when it comes to their personal health throughout the pandemic, stating that they have developed healthier personal habits and behaviours.1
  • These changes were most notable in elderly age groups in the UAE, with 87% of over 55-year-olds surveyed, claiming to have developed healthier habits, compared to 58% of 18-24-year-olds.1
  • Sleep was one of the biggest positive changes noted in the UAE. Improvements in sleep were seen in over half of the responses with survey participants (61%) getting a longer night’s rest.1
  • There were also some respondents who improved their sleep practices such as by going to bed earlier (46%) and getting up earlier (48%).
  • Although, some female survey respondents in the UAE (40%1) reported feeling like their sleep has been negatively affected due to stress, they are still sleeping longer and keeping a better sleep routine. 

“Similar optimistic trends were also observed in the Fitbit user data for the UAE; like the duration of sleep increased by an average of over 20 minutes per night compared to the same period last year, and in particular women between 18-29 year were able to get an additional 23 mins per night during lockdown. Furthermore, even as we try to return to our schedule in this new normal, sleep duration is still 5% higher than 2019 levels. Considering the overall positive effects of getting a better night sleep, such effects might be indicated as a silver lining of the pandemic if such a trend continues for the long term. 2 Anyone who is looking for tools to understand and improve one’s sleep, could try using one of our Fitbit devices with sleep tracking functionality along with Fitbit Premium’s personalized insights and guided programs” said Prateek Kewalramani.2

The next 12 months looks set to be just as challenging with COVID-19 still looming over us. When UAE survey respondents were asked in which areas of their life they would like more support and motivation to develop better personal health habits, exercise topped the poll (58%), followed by everyday activeness (46%) and eating and meal planning (40%).1 This research demonstrates that many people within the UAE are looking to form new healthier habits they could maintain with some additional support and resources.

Activity and Steps

During COVID-19 our NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis)3 dropped and Fitbit UAE users’ step count declined2 due to less natural moments of activity throughout the day. We are missing the simple daily routine activities such as walking the kids to school, walking to and from the bus stop to work or taking the stairs during our coffee breaks.  While some UAE survey respondents reported increased levels of exercise and activity due to extra time they had at home, Fitbit data has proven that we may not be as active as we thought.

“Although the higher impact activities such as running and workout saw an increase of 15% as compared to last year amongst the Fitbit UAE users, but at the same time we also have seen a decline in steps and active minutes across Fitbit users in the UAE and it has still has not returned to the same levels as last year, indicating that overall, we are becoming more sedentary.2 For maintaining healthier lifestyle- both physically and mentally, it is important to continually move our bodies throughout the day and take regular breaks to keep a balance in activity levels,” said Prateek Kewalramani. 

Increased Stress Levels

While most people experienced improvements in their activity and sleep levels, levels of stress are higher as the pandemic has evolved, with more than half of those surveyed in the UAE (60%) saying that their stress levels were higher as a direct result of COVID-19.1

Key findings from the survey of UAE respondents in relation to stress included:

  • 52% of 18-24-year-olds experiencing an increased level of stress.1
  • Women are feeling the effects of stress more, with female respondents more likely to have a lack of energy (39%). Women also reported that stress negatively impacts their moods and their ability to concentrate.1
  • Working from home also brought stressful challenges for the survey respondents, with the primary issue being the inability to differentiate between work and personal life with 38% saying they struggled to distinguish between the working day and the weekend.1
  • 51% of people stated that they have worked more hours while working from home and nearly a quarter (23%) also felt that their mental wellness has been negatively impacted as a result of working from home.1

“Despite the concerning negative impact of the current pandemic, we definitely have observed a silver lining in the adoption rates of healthier lifestyles-especially during the first wave of local movement restrictions. The work from home has positively impacted UAE residents’ in some ways as they started picking up new hobbies and talents and spending more quality time with family (81%) and an improvement in their diet was also seen (74%) due to remote working. We became more aware of the significance of following a healthy lifestyle and overall wellbeing. Indeed, the UAE population cultivated healthier lifestyle habits as a result of the pandemic (66%). Hopefully we could continue with these positive habits which could help us in the long term to build our immunity and focus on prevention,” said Resha Erheim, Licensed Counsellor and a wellness expert working with Fitbit.   

It is not surprising that the emergence of Covid-19 has increased people’s stress levels (60%) in the UAE and this impacted their general health (54%) by lowering their mood (53%), causing them to feel more tense (49%), disturbing their sleep (37%) negatively affecting their energy levels and causing difficulty in concentrating (34%). The survey indicates that some of the activities UAE residents chose to engage with in order to cope with stress, include listening to music (54%), talking to family or friends (45%), playing video games (34%) and exercising (34%). Each individual has a different stress management approach that works for them; some might prefer to continue exercising indoors using video workouts, while others might prefer observing mindfulness practices such as meditation and guided breathing sessions, yoga and maintaining a regular sleep schedule. It is very important to identify the stress management technique that works best for each individual”, added Resha Erheim.

The new Fitbit Sense has the world’s first electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor on a smartwatch to help manage stress. The combined on-device and in-app stress management experience with Fitbit Sense gives you insights into your body’s response to stress with tools to help you manage both your physical and mental stress. It can help you track key trends in your health and wellbeing, which includes a new Stress Management Score based on your heart rate, sleep and activity levels. Paired with a free six-month trial of Fitbit Premium5, you will be able to see a further breakdown of your Stress Management Score that shows you what is impacting your stress score from your responsiveness, exertion balance and sleep patterns.

To find out more about Fitbit Sense with 6 months of free of Fitbit Premium, visit Fitbit app or


For more information contact:
Ronak Thakkar,
FleishmanHillard UAE

External research conducted by Course5 Intelligence in August 2020 across all adults 18+ and genders, on behalf of Fitbit. The external research results are based on a survey fielded among 14,071 consumers in Europe, including France (2,009), Germany (2,008), Ireland (1,006), Italy (1,009), Netherlands (1,000), Norway (1,001), South Africa (1,002), Spain (1,020), Sweden (1003), UAE (1,001) and the UK (2,012). The online survey was conducted by Course5 Intelligence in August 2020. 

Anonymous and aggregated Fitbit data between 24 February and 29 August 2020 and for the same timeframe in 2019, assessed sleep, activity levels and step data.

  • External research conducted by Course5 Intelligence in August 2020 across all adults 18+ and genders, on behalf of Fitbit. The external research results are based on a survey fielded among 14,071 consumers in Europe, including France (2,009), Germany (2,008), Ireland (1,006), Italy (1,009), Netherlands (1,000), Norway (1,001), South Africa (1,002), Spain (1,020), Sweden (1003), UAE (1,001) and the UK (2,012).
  • Anonymous and aggregated UAE Fitbit user data from 24 February to 29 August 2020
  • National Library of Medicine, source: “NEAT is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. Even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it is the cumulative impact of a multitude of exothermic actions that culminate in an individual's daily NEAT.”
  • See more on American Heart Association, source:” Stress and Heart Health”; National Institute of Mental Health, source: “5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” ; International Labour Organization, source: “Workplace Stress, A Collective Challenge”
  • New Premium users only. Cancel before free trial ends to avoid subscription fees. See full terms & conditions here.
  • MoHAP conducts 71,466 additional COVID-19 tests in past 24 hours, announces 1,234 new cases, 1,516 recoveries, 1 death.

About Fitbit

Fitbit helps people lead healthier, more active lives by empowering them with data, inspiration and guidance to reach their goals. Fitbit designs products and experiences that track and provide motivation for everyday health and fitness. Fitbit’s diverse line of innovative and popular products include Fitbit Sense™, the Fitbit Versa™ family of smartwatches, Fitbit Charge 4™, Fitbit Inspire 2™, and Fitbit Ace 2™ activity trackers, and Fitbit Aria Air smart scale. Fitbit products are carried in approximately 39,000 retail stores and in 100+ countries around the globe. The Fitbit platform delivers personalized experiences, insights and guidance through leading software and interactive tools, including the Fitbit and Fitbit Coach apps, and Fitbit OS for smartwatches. Fitbit’s paid subscription service, Fitbit Premium, provides advanced analytics and actionable guidance in the Fitbit app to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Fitbit Health Solutions develops health and wellness solutions designed to help increase engagement, improve health outcomes, and drive a positive return for employers, health plans and health systems. 

Fitbit and the Fitbit logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Fitbit, Inc. in the U.S. and other countries. Additional Fitbit trademarks can be Third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. 

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