The real impact of weight gain during Covid-19 lockdown
Across the UK, people have been observing the lockdowns and following government advice to stay home, keeping themselves as safe as possible from Covid-19. However, research is now showing that the weight gain many of us have experienced, can have a serious impact on our physical health and we need to take action, now!
The physical impact of lockdown Pre-coronavirus, our lives were hectic – the daily commute, school run, exercise classes and being out with friends – burning calories and helping us to maintain healthy body-fat and muscle mass levels. However, during lockdown, many of us have also slowed down. Home-working, home-schooling and the closure of sports clubs and gyms has meant that the level of physical exercise which was part of our daily lives, has been drastically reduced, and the impact of that on our health is starting to show. Children will also have experienced a significant reduction in their physical activity. Without school sports matches, weekend clubs and the opportunity to play with their friends in the park, many of our young people will be experiencing a loss of fitness and putting on weight. A survey carried out by Ipsos Mori on behalf of Kings College London found that 35% of adults admitted to eating more food, or less healthy food, than they normally would and 19% are drinking more alcohol than they normally would. Another survey, carried out by OnePoll for Cambridge WeightPlan found that 48% of women and 44% of men are likely to put on weight during lockdown, with over 16% putting on more than 5lbs, and 2% putting on more than a stone.
Do a few extra lockdown lbs or kgs really matter? Taking less exercise, moving less and consuming more calories during lockdown could be seen as an acceptable consequence of everything we have had to cope with – do few extra pounds or kilograms really matter? Unfortunately, they do and it is important to take action to protect your health.
Risks of increased fat – a healthy level of body fat (20 – 35% for a woman and 8 – 25% for a man) is positive. The right balance of subcutaneous and visceral fat will give you the energy to live an active lifestyle and a healthy endocrine system regulating our body’s organ function. However, once your calorie intake exceeds what you are needing for movement, your level of fat will start to increase leading not just to your clothes feeling tighter but also the build-up of visceral fat around your organs. What’s more your increase in weight may not fully reflect your increase in fat mass; remember if you have also been losing muscle, your fat gain will be more than just your weight gain.
Risks of visceral fat - too much visceral fat is associated with serious health conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Crucially with coronavirus, studies are beginning to show that there is an association between obesity and experiencing severe symptoms if you do catch Covid-19 with obesity being a risk factor for COVID-19 hospital admission and that elevated risk being apparent even at modest weight gain. If you are worried about your level of visceral fat, get an accurate measurement with a Tanita body composition scale.
Risks of reduced muscle – muscles enable your body to move and also fuel your ability to exercise and so a reduction in muscle mass can create a cycle whereby it is harder for you to exercise, your move less and you lose more muscle. That loss of muscle can be surprisingly fast; research published in the European Journal of Sports Science found that “just a few days of sedentary lifestyle are sufficient to induce muscle loss. ” So, accurate measurements of muscle mass and muscle quality from a scale such as the Tanita RD-953 will enable you to spot ant changes fast.
Taking steps to protect your health during lockdown As many countries are now entering a second lockdown, or period of restriction, it is important to understand your current state of health and take steps to reverse any negative impacts of lockdown that you may be experiencing.
- Start with measuring and get a clear, accurate, picture of your body composition. This will give you a good insight on what your body needs in terms of exercise and nutrition. Using a body composition scale with BIA technology like the Tanita BC-401 will give you a full body composition analysis and accurate readings of your body fat %, muscle mass and visceral fat levels and combine these into an easy-to-understand metabolic age reading – if your metabolic age is higher than your real age, you need to take action, now! Young people can also start to take control of understanding their measurements; that majority of Tanita body composition scales give readings for weight, BMI and fat % for children from 5 years of age. As always if you are not sure what to do about your readings, you should consult a healthcare professional.
- Once you are in command of the information you can work to improve it. Look out for the great new online workouts which have become available like the Joe Wicks Body Coach programme, make full use of any daily outdoor exercise allowance you have and banish empty calories from your weekly shop.
- Finally, monitor your readings regularly, using the My Tanita app to see your progress – nothing is more motivating than success, so get your family and friends involved and see who can achieve the most progress.