One year ago, terms like “Stay Home,” “Quarantine,” and “Lockdown” became plastered on the eyes and ears, as measures taken for the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses– many for good. Gyms closed. Memes and jokes poking fun at imminent weight gain and bad eating habits began to circulate. But now: A 2020 weight gain study released today confirmed the expected: Americans packed on an average of 1.5 pounds per month.
Findings taken from this longitudinal study of 269 men and women from February to June of last year were conducted through smart scale (FitBit or iHealth) via bluetooth connection. Both a decline in daily step count likely due to decreased daily activity, and increases of snacking and overeating sharply correlate with the March 2020 lockdowns that were ordered in 45 of the 50 states.
And with lots of Americans accustomed to homebody life and even extreme isolation, there is no end in sight for the Covid-caused trend in weight gain, and these initial findings–though limited–are actually a pretty serious starting point. Writes Gregory M. Marcus, one of the doctors involved in the study:
“Although this may not appear clinically important, prolonged effects as have occurred with the pandemic might lead to substantial weight gain.
“Weight is a clinically relevant health outcome that is independently associated with all-cause mortality.
“It is important to recognize the unintended health consequences SIP [Shelter-In-Place] can have on a population level. The detrimental health outcomes suggested by these data demonstrate a need to identify concurrent strategies to mitigate weight gain, such as encouraging healthy diets and exploring ways to enhance physical activity, as local governments consider new constraints in response to [COVID-19] and potential future pandemics.”
Obesity–a national epidemic for numerous decades— is a public health crisis that leads to illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and the top two American fatalities: cancer and heart disease, respectfully. 42% of adults are obese, and dietary patterns and inactivity are two of the causes.
Overeating is just one element to the struggles Americans have been tackling this past year. Mental health has taken a devastating turn from bad to much worse— and the two are often interlinked.