Obesity is a pressing public health issue in the UK that has increased in importance over the last 12 months, with lockdowns affecting our ability to exercise, encouraging unhealthy eating, and lowering our overall motivation to start moving and lose weight. NHS figures for Obesity in 2020 suggest some alarming statistics, with 67% of men and 60% of women in England being obese.
A study published on the NCBI website attempts to establish this link between limited physical activity, poor dieting and the effects of the lockdown on rates of obesity. 82% of participants had restricted access to healthy food, often leading to increased levels of obesity. Predictors of negative changes to diet or significant weight gain were a previous COVID diagnosis, having a high-risk medical condition or a high BMI.
On the other hand, the study shows a 45% increase in physical exercise among participants. This positive change is a result of government advice outlining exercise as 'essential' activity during the first and second lockdown. Conclusions of the data show that participants who reported that their mental health had suffered engaged in significantly lower levels of physical activity and higher levels of overeating during lockdown.
Government initiatives such as the ‘Better Health’ campaign have been put in place to help discourage unhealthy habits, as a result of discovering the link between obesity and vulnerability to COVID-19. In an article posted on GOV.UK it is said that 8% of critically ill patients with COVID-19 have been morbidly obese, with 2.9% of the remaining severe cases being among the general population.
This new initiative calls on the UK population to embrace healthier lifestyle choices if they need to, providing resources to help achieve personal health and manage your weight. The Better Health plan as described on GOV.UK includes some active regulations that will affect how we access unhealthy food including:
- Banning TV adverts for junk food before 9pm, with 47.6% of food adverts studied in September 2019 featuring products high in sugar, fat and salt.
- Ending ‘buy one get one free’ deals on junk food, as a survey conducted in 2018 collecting data from homes in prominent areas of the UK shows that 43% of food and drink bought is unhealthy, compared to only 1% for healthier goods.
- Labelling items such as alcohol for their hidden calorie content, and creating new laws requiring that large restaurants and takeaways add calorie labels to their food. On average 75% of people visit a restaurant or have a takeaway in a week, with studies showing we consume on average 200 more calories when eating out or from a takeaway compared to eating at home.
The desired outcome of 'Better health' is to help encourage healthier eating and drinking habits by changing how information is spread about unhealthy food. As the earlier study suggests, we should focus on keeping ourselves healthy and protected against becoming vulnerable to mental and physical decline. As restrictions ease, now is a great opportunity to try something new and get fit.
'Weight, Let's Manage It'
If you found yourself struggling to manage your weight, improve your personal nutrition or establish a healthier diet consider joining our 'Weight, Let's Manage It' workshop on The Bubble, starting on the 3rd June. Groups are kept small allowing for personalised discussions in a safe and accommodating space where you can focus on achieving your own weight and fitness goals.