A survey has found the daily step count of Americans dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has not recovered since.

“On average, people are taking about 600 fewer steps per day than before the pandemic began,” said study author Dr. Evan Brittain, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

The study was published Monday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

“To me, the main message is really a public health message--raising awareness that COVID-19 appears to have had a lasting impact on people’s behavioral choices when it comes to activity,” Brittain continued.

In the study, researchers compared steps taken by around 5,500 people pre- and post-pandemic. The volunteers were made to wear activity trackers for at least 10 hours a day. Also, researchers had access to their electronic health records. It should be noted most of the participants were White women, having an average age of 53, according to CNN.

For the study, step counts tracked between Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2020, was considered pre-COVID, while steps after that date till the end of 2021 came under the post-COVID category.

The results were similar across differences based on sex, obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses or conditions such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, or cancer, as per the outlet.

However, participants with the fewest step counts were socioeconomically disadvantaged, under psychological stress, and not vaccinated, the study found.

Moreover, it was seen that people over the age of 60 kept up with their step count despite the pandemic. It was the younger people between 18 and 30 whose step counts saw the most decline.

“In fact, we found every 10-year decrease in age was associated with a 243-step reduction per day,” Brittain said “If this persists over time, it could certainly raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and other conditions strongly linked to being sedentary. However, it’s too soon to know whether this trend will last.”

A plausible reason for the downward trend in the younger population may be that most of them work in technology, software, and other professions that make working from home feasible, “whereas older people may have less of those jobs,” said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health, a hospital in Denver, who was not involved in the research.

“If this trend remains, we should really be cognizant that if you’re going to work from home, use either a standing, treadmill or bike desk,” Freeman said, adding managers should “insist people [remote employees] take periodic breaks for people to do exercise, which also is proven to improve mental clarity and acuity.”