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Garmin data shows SA’s workout routines during lockdown

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 18 May 2020

South Africans have taken to fitness equipment workouts during the COVID-19 lockdown, data from GPS and fitness accessory maker Garmin shows.

Garmin specialises in GPS technology for automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor and sport activities.

Due to its development in wearable technology, the company has also been competing with activity tracker and smartwatch consumer developers such as Fitbit and Apple.

South African gyms remain closed during level four lockdown, with outdoor exercise limited to 06h00 and 09h00, and a 5km radius from home.

“When comparing April 2020 to April of last year, we see a clear reflection of the pandemic’s crippling global power,” says Garmin in a statement.

According to the company, aggregated data from millions of Garmin users shows a worldwide decrease of 12% in average daily steps.

It notes that in China, Mexico, SA and a handful of other countries, fitness equipment workouts increased more than any other activity.

“Globally, when we look at what types of fitness equipment workouts are being performed, we see that indoor cardio accounts for 50% of them. Last year during the same time period, over 50% of the activities in this category were strength training. This could indicate a shift from gym-structured workouts to home-based ‘find-a-way’ workouts,” says the company.

It points out that the global movement to indoor cycling is undeniable. While Garmin has reported extensively on the statistics around the global shift to this activity in previous articles, it decided to consult a couple of Garmin pro athletes this time around for some qualitative context.

“Currently, I am in France where I am not able to bike outside,” says US triathlete Taylor Spivey, who has been in Europe since the quarantine began. “I went from never doing an indoor ride in months to riding inside five times per week.”

“We are definitely spending more time on platforms like Zwift,” says Colorado-based triathlete Mirinda Carfrae. “Our training group meets once every two weeks to do a session together – just one way to keep in contact with [everyone] we would normally see almost daily.”

Swimmers aren’t sitting on the sidelines, Garmin says, noting that in Australia, the data shows that 54% of the users who swam in April 2019 are instead running outdoors in April 2020.

In China, it says, 43% of the users who swam in April last year are either running or biking outside this year.

In the US, pro triathlete Paula Findlay is putting in the work at home.

“Since all pools are closed in Oregon where I live, I’m doing more gym and strength work at home,” says Findlay. “I’m trying to replicate some of the movements and muscle patterns of swimming.”

According to Garmin, multisport training, along with hiking and golf, also ranked as the activities with the largest decreases in multiple countries.

But like swimmers, it notes, these folks look to be finding alternatives.

“In South Africa, for example, 20% of the users who were golfing in April 2019 turned to indoor fitness workouts in April 2020, while another 11% began indoor cycling,” says the company.

After analysing the activity trend data for two months, Garmin has used the phrase “fitness is finding a way” as a recurring theme.

“While the data does support this conclusion, technically speaking, it’s the people who are finding a way. From the mainstream to professional athletes, people are adapting routines but clearly not stopping them,” it concludes.