University of Toronto Seeks Apple Watch Users for COVID-19 Fitness Study

covfit research study

The COVFIT Research Study is being conducted by the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health, seeking to use anonymous Apple Watch activity data during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The goal of this study is to describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adult physical activity in Canada,” explains Shelby Sturrock, Epidemiology PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, along with Dr. Dionne Gesink (University of Toronto) and Dr. Daniel Fuller (University of Saskatchewan). The study is seeking data from adults 18 or older that live in Canada.

covfit research study iphone

Participants are being asked to download the COVFIT Research Study app to answer some survey questions, then provide permission to let the app “collect anonymous information recorded by your Apple Watch and prepare it for submission to the University of Toronto.”

Apple Watch anonymous data and also survey responses will be sent to researchers. There is no compensation for participating in the study, according to Sturrock, who told us the study will be “looking at changes in physical activity during the pandemic.” She also stated that recruiting free participants has been difficult, aside from her own personal and professional network.

The COVFIT study has received ethics approval by the University of Toronto Health Sciences Research Ethics Board (RIS Protocol #42166),” explains the app.

Sturrock clarified to iPhone in Canada, “all data is collected anonymously — we don’t collect any personal information (name, location data, date of birth, email, etc.). Participants are asked their age and postal code, among other things, but they are instructed to skip any question they don’t want to answer.”

She also noted they “plan to look at results for groups of people (by age, gender, race, province of residence, etc.)” but “data will be aggregated at high levels to maintain anonymity.”

As for security, she says “data is encrypted on the user’s phone before it is uploaded to me, and I’m the only one with the encryption key.” An information and consent PDF letter can be seen here, while the COVFIT project is also on GitHub here.

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