“Corona fuels a different pandemic”

How has the corona pandemic affected the dietary and exercise behavior and thus the weight of adults? Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have investigated this question and found that about 40 percent of those surveyed have gained weight since the start of the pandemic and that slightly more than half of those surveyed have exercised less than they did before the corona crisis.

A survey conducted by the Else Kröner Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine (EKFZ) at TUM and supported by the research institute Forsa has found that among 30 to 44 year-olds, an above average proportion (48 percent) have gained weight since the beginning of the corona pandemic. Furthermore, this percentage increases to 53 percent among those who already had a weight problem before the start of the pandemic.

The analysis is based on an online survey of 1,001 adults between the ages of 18 and 70 taken in April of 2021 as part of a systematic random procedure. Hans Hauner, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at TUM, and Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz, Professor of Preventative Pediatrics at TUM, have commented on the data in an expert discussion.

Weight gain exacerbated by corona pandemic

The higher the body mass index (BMI) of the respondents, the more often they say they have gained weight since the start of the pandemic. “Corona is thus fueling the obesity pandemic,” says Hans Hauner, director of the Else Kröner Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine. On average, the weight gain has been 5.6 kilos, and among respondents with an already high BMI of over 30, the weight gain has been even higher at 7.2 kilos on average.

“Obesity, then, is considered a driver of the covid-19 pandemic because as BMI increases, so does the risk of developing severe corona infection. Thus, a vicious circle results from the interaction of corona and obesity,” explains Prof. Hauner. Independent of covid-19, too much weight is responsible for about 80,000 to 100,000 deaths a year in Germany. “The collateral damage caused by the focus on corona is therefore enormous in the area of many lifestyle-related diseases,” says Prof. Hauner.

Dietary behavior since the start of the corona pandemic

The majority of respondents (more than 60 percent) say, their eating behavior has not fundamentally changed since the pandemic began. On the other hand, comparatively often, respondents say they have more time to eat (33 percent) and that they eat more often out of boredom (28 percent). Furthermore, the additional food consumed is predominantly unfavorable for health such as sweets, junk food, and sugar-sweetened beverages. This behavior is found especially among people who feel psychologically burdened by the pandemic.

“The energy requirement of an adult is between 1,500 and 2,500 kcal per day, depending on age, sex and weight. The goal when eating must be a good but not excessive energy supply from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins as well as intake of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, i.e. a balanced healthy diet,” explains Prof. Hauner.

Study shows lack of exercise among adults

52 percent of those surveyed have moved less since the beginning of the corona crisis. With higher BMI the percentage also increases (60 percent). Respondents cite having less exercise in their daily lives (54 percent) as a reason for the decline in physical activity, as well as the fact that venues for individual or group exercise – such as gyms or fitness centers – are closed (53 percent).

“Activity and movement are important to strengthen our health and well-being,” says Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz, Professor of Preventative Pediatrics and dean of the Department of Sport and Health Sciences at TUM. “Adults should be active at a moderate to high intensity for at least 150 minutes per week. Classic endurance sports such as cycling, running, and swimming are ideal.”

Expert team advises balanced diet and regular exercise

“A balanced diet and regular physical activity are crucial prerequisites for health, fitness, and performance, “says Prof. Oberhoffer-Fritz.

According to Professor Hauner, “Those who eat a low-fat diet and get enough exercise get more out of life, and this is true not only in corona times.”

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.