Did lockdown measures turn us into couch potatoes?

·2-min read

If you thought that Covid-19 lockdown measures might have made us more athletic, helped us sleep better and spend more time in the kitchen, think again. On a global scale, a recent American study showed that shelter-in-place guidelines and pandemic restrictions have actually had detrimental effects on our health.

Worldwide, further pandemic-related constraints loom on the horizon because of the threat of a second wave of Covid-19; Welsh and Irish citizens have already re-entered lockdown, and much of France is under a nightly curfew.

Back in March and April, some people took advantage of stay-at-home restrictions to exercise, sleep longer hours and cook healthy meals, but it seems that this phenomenon was not widespread.

A Pennington Biomedical Research Center study, conducted in Baton Rouge in April 2020 among 7753 global respondents showed that lockdown was not particularly healthy for everyone.

The findings, published in Obesity, showed that social distancing entailed healthier eating habits for some, since dining out was replaced by home cooking. However, snacking while watching TV was also much more frequent. 

Before lockdown, 32 percent of study participants had a "normal" weight, 32 percent were "overweight," and 34 percent suffered from "obesity." Weight gain was reported in 27.5 percent of the total sample and in 33.4 percent of participants with obesity. The researchers attributed this weight gain to more sedentary habits and less time devoted to physical activity.

The study also showed that anxiety levels gained ground, which had detrimental effects on sleep quality.

"The Covid‐19 pandemic produced significant health effects, well beyond the virus itself. Government mandates together with fear of contracting the virus have significantly impacted lifestyle behaviors alongside declines in mental health. These deleterious impacts have disproportionally affected individuals with obesity," said the research team, underlining the need for  the medical team in charge of this study, who underlined the need for physical and psychological support for patients with obesity during the pandemic.