Has the past year found you less active and as a consequence gaining weight?
If so, you’re not alone! While going out less and staying home more was important during the pandemic, it can also be harmful to one’s overall fitness and mental health.
A recent study found that the average American gained just over 20 pounds over the past year (Lin, 2021). This breaks down to approximately 1.75 pounds per month. If you have experienced even some of this weight gain here are a few simple tips to help get you back on track towards your wellness goals.
1. Take it slow
Coming in very eager to take advantage all the fitness options and exercising like crazy for a few weeks can actually be detrimental. It can cause burn out, or a lack of interest if pounds are not lost quickly. It is important to remember that the pandemic has lasted over 14 months. Just as the weight didn’t instantly come on in a matter of weeks, shedding pounds or regaining fitness levels will take time. Slow and steady wins the race.
2. Make a plan and set goals
Making a fitness plan with attainable goals is the key to motivation and accountability. A routine can be formed in the first 1-2 months. That can either be a routine of coming to the gym, or a routine of falling off and not exercising.
A great first goal to set is just to make time to come to the gym 3 times per week. Lift a few weights, do some light cardio, finish with a few stretches, and feel good about what you have accomplished and the new routine that is being established. After setting that pattern for a few weeks, you can start to add new goals.
3. Watch what you eat
While a lack of activity is a contributor to weight gain, the other downfall is food choices. Many of us stocked up on shelf stable, less healthy foods, to try to prevent going out too often. Take-out food was also a culprit. Wanting to support favorite restaurants may have also unfortunately added to the waistline.
In the future, my suggestion is to limit eating out or take out to once per week. Use it as a reward for all your hard work getting back into the gym. Also, with the arrival of warmer weather, more fresh produce is available. Be sure to check out the grocery store’s fresh food section as well as the options from local farmer’s markets.
4. Get outside
An international study tracking steps via cell phone apps found that an individual’s average daily steps decreased by 27% in March 2020 when many lockdowns went into effect (Tison, 2020). This statistic is probably even truer for Midwesterners, who are stuck inside more during the winter.
Now that the weather is improving and is coupled with longer days, get outside and go for a walk! If you work from home, I suggest starting your day off with a morning walk. You could also head out during a lunch break or just mix a quick walk in at any part of the day. Not only will outdoor walking provide more daily activity, it will also deliver sunshine (vitamin D) and fresh air back into your life!
Lin AL, Vittinghoff E, Olgin JE, Pletcher MJ, Marcus GM. Body Weight Changes During Pandemic-Related Shelter-in-Place in a Longitudinal Cohort Study. JAMA Netw Open 2021;4(3):e212536. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.2536.
Geoffrey H. Tison, Robert Avram, Peter Kuhar, et al. Worldwide Effect of COVID-19 on Physical Activity: A Descriptive Study. Ann Intern Med.2020;173:767-770. [Epub ahead of print 29 June 2020]. doi:10.7326/M20-2665.
Personal Trainer Josh Lewis M.Ed., NSCA CSCS has a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from UW-Eau Claire and a Master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota. When he’s not at the gym he enjoys hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and watching sports with family and friends. Josh’s love for being active, along with the enjoyment he receives from helping people reach their goals, is what led him to become a Personal Trainer.
Contact Josh Lewis at (507) 287-9335 ext. 351.
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