With gyms closed, stress baking on the rise, and many people working from home, it is not surprising that many people are experiencing weight gain. The global pandemic has forced many of us to change our entire way of life, as well as having to manage the stresses that have come with all these changes.
Working from home means there is much easier access to snacks throughout the day. And when people are stressed, they often eat comforting and high caloric foods. To add to the challenge, healthy fruits and vegetables are costlier and harder to keep fresh when compared to processed foods that will last longer on your shelf.
In a poll commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction, alcohol consumption is on the rise, also another contributor to weight gain[i]. The study found that 25% of Canadians (aged 35–54) and 21% of Canadians (aged 18–34) say they have increased the amount of alcohol they drink while spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stress can lead to weight gain through psychological factors including boredom, anxiety and mindless eating as well as physical factors such as hormone changes and sleep. While some weight gain is normal during stressful times, it is important to consider how much weight gain is too much, and try to take steps toward healthier strategies.
How Much Weight Gain Puts Your Health at Risk?
How round is too round? Being overweight puts you at increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation states that “where you carry your weight is just as important as how much you weigh when it comes to your health”.
Waist circumference is a strong predictor for risk of poor health outcomes. For males, more than 102 cm (40 inches) around the waist substantially increases this risk. For females, more than 80 cm (31.5 inches) is an increased risk and more than 88 cm (35 inches) is a substantially increased risk.
Other risk factors such as ethnicity, medical history, family history and individual risk factors (e.g. smoking, poor diet) can further affect your risk. Contrary to popular belief, waist circumference is not your pant size. It is closer to the level of your belly button. Visit the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation website to see how to take a proper waist measurement[ii].
Find Ways to Fit Physical Activity into Your Normal Routine
Even if your outer appearance does not necessarily reflect it, there are simple steps for those who have gained weight to build a strong foundation for fitness and health. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has published activity guidelines for adults (18-64 years old) to achieve health benefits.
The guidelines call for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This should be supplemented by at least two muscle and bone strengthening sessions that use major muscle groups. This translates into 20-30 minutes every day[iii].
You may also enjoy reading: The Benefits of Hiring a Personal Trainer
The key to success is finding ways to fit physical activity into your normal routine. With most gyms closed for now, it is time to explore options at home and outdoors. Many activities that adults engage in with their kids or at home can count towards their physical activity targets.
The Compendium of Physical Activities (2011) shows the relative metabolic cost involved when participating in a variety of activities including exercise, sports, home tasks, family activities, etc.
The following table shows activities that are of relatively equal intensity and calorie expenditure based on the compendium. It is a valuable tool in figuring out how to find physical activities that best fit into your schedule.
You may also enjoy reading: The Benefits of Regular Exercise
Exercise Professionals Can Help You Tackle Weight Gain
Remember there are many things you can do to help limit weight gain during these stressful times. If you don’t have access to a gym, there are many online routines that can help you stay active. Also, taking a walk, meditating or yoga can help to manage your stress.
You may also find our online meditation resources helpful.
At Propel Physiotherapy we offer in person and virtual exercise training to help you maintain your exercise routine, as well as yoga therapy and mindfulness training to help you manage stress in healthier ways.
Most importantly, give yourself a break! These are unprecedented and stressful times and being kind to yourself is the most important thing.
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