There’s no doubt that most of us packed on the pounds during the pandemic. With the second summer of COVID-19 approaching, many Americans want to slim down for bathing suit season after spending months cooped up at home binge eating and watching television.
According to The New York Times, a new study found that, on the average, adults gained nearly 2 pounds a month during a four-month observational period. Researchers used measurements from Bluetooth-connected smart scales to calculate their data.
The study was published Monday in JAMA Network Open and linked the weight gain to shelter-in-place or SIP orders issued by 45 out of 50 state governments to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic during the early surge.
"The initial SIP coincided with an observed decrease in daily step counts, likely reflective of changes in physical activity and patterns of daily living, as well as concurrent self-reported increases in snacking and overeating," wrote the researchers in their report.
Dr. Gregory Marcus, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist at the University of California San Francisco, says that the adults in the study gained more than a half a pound every 10 days which adds up to nearly two pounds monthly, according to the Times.
Marcus, the senior author of the research study, said that Americans who kept up their lockdown habits could have easily gained 20 pounds over the course of a year.
"We know that weight gain is a public health problem in the U.S. already, so anything making it worse is definitely concerning, and shelter-in-place orders are so ubiquitous that the sheer number of people affected by this makes it extremely relevant," said Dr. Marcus.
The 269 study participants were asked to track their weight regularly using Bluetooth-connected smart scales from February,1 2020 to June 1, 2020, according to the PhillyVoice. While the researchers acknowledged that the study was small, they said it still had important implications for the American public.
The American Psychological Association conducted a survey that supports the findings of the new study. The APA revealed that 42% of the survey participants said they gained unwanted pounds during the pandemic. On the average, those surveyed said they gained 29 pounds.
Even more striking, according to the APA survey, is that the average millennial gained a whopping 41 pounds — the highest of any generation. Dr. Angela Fitch, an obesity expert at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, called this statistic "alarming," according to the PhillyVoice.
According to the Times, being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing more severe COVID-19 disease. Statistics show that 42 percent of American adults over age 20 are obese while another 32 percent of Americans are simply overweight.
The concern about weight gain also extends to children, who are known to pack on unhealthy pounds during the summer recess months when they are not in school.
One in 7 American children are already overweight, according to statistics, and experts fear those numbers will rise due to COVID-19. Pediatricians are already seeing significant weight gain in children because of stress eating, lack of physical exercise, and poor nutrition due to economic hardship and pandemic anxiety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of newly diagnosed cases of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are rising steadily among children and teens.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has been studying obesity trends in children, and reported that people of color and families with low incomes have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to USA Today. Children and teens living in households with incomes below the federal poverty level are twice as likely to suffer from obesity, according to RWJF.
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