Gaining weight during lockdown— should you worry?

Social media has exploded with the number of people commenting about their expanding waistline since the UK applied lockdown measures on March 23.

According to a Facebook poll sent to Bristol postcode groups, more than 70% said lockdown was likely to cause weight gain, with 65% concerned about gaining weight and almost half admitting to visiting the kitchen in search of food several times per day.

Yet despite the majority agreeing that obesity is an underlying health risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, a third of people have done no exercise in spite of raised health risks.

Recent data published by Public Health England reveal that while 71% of adults living in the South West region are physically active, 54% of adults living Bristol are classified as overweight or obese.

Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England said: “Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally.

“At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which can make you feel worse.

She recommends eating well-balanced meals, drinking enough water and exercising where it’s possible.

29-year-old Richard Dyer from Yate, Bristol said the lockdown has caused him to gain weight as he would normally walk to and from work doing an average of 18,000 to 20,000 steps a day.

He said: “People will boredom eat so they will find what is more convenient.

“You might go to the cupboard, crab a cake or a biscuit but obviously if you have more time to do it — you’re going to do it more often.”

Mr Dyer is not convinced people are taking advantage of being allowed to exercise outdoors.

“For me personally, it’s more lack of effort on my part. I’m happier to sit around watching television or something else,” he said.

With no club cricket to play or a physically demanding day job due to the lockdown, he now spends his time resting while eagerly waiting for the pandemic to pass so he can return back to normality.

In a Twitter poll, more than 80% said lockdown is likely to cause weight gain.

One Twitter user said: “This lockdown is likely to amplify people’s strengths and weaknesses. Those who like a doughnut and a glass of wine will now probably have two or three.”

Being fit and a healthy weight has shown to help support the immune system and The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises the importance people of all ages and abilities exercising and eating healthily.

According to a WHO statement: “What we eat and drink can affect our body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections.”

Here’s why you are piling on the pounds and what you can do to improve your health

Peter J. Rogers Professor of Biological Psychology at University of Bristol said: “We’ve evolved to over eat if the opportunities arise.

“We can easily be tempted into overeating by something delicious or perhaps when we are fed up or bored we think we’ll be cheered up by a treat, but of course the danger is that we take on those extra calories and we gain weight in that situation,” he said.

Professor Rogers suggests that while many people are confined to their homes during this uncertain pandemic, they should be eating less to avoid weight gain if they are physically inactive then perhaps missing an occasional meal “will come to no harm.”

He said: “In terms of our overall energy expenditure that we have, about 70% of that is used by our body just to keep us alive and keep our body functions working normally, keeping our heart beating, brains working — and about 30% is the energy we use in physical activity.”

He believes that it is down to us to consciously be aware of how we eat.

“We are really left with keeping our food intake in check to keep our weight in check, that’s the easiest way to ensure we have a healthy energy balance,” he said.

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