The early months of the COVID-19 pandemic threw Jaden Fisher’s routine into a spiral as it made getting to the gym more of a chore than a choice.
“I used to work out a lot before, but when it hit I found I had no motivation to get into the gym, so I gained some weight,” Fisher said.
In the middle of the pandemic, Fisher was in a different state, and her opportunities to hit the gym were limited. She said it wasn’t until after she moved back to South Dakota from Georgia when she could recommit to the routine she had previously.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced gyms to close and people to stay indoors during the spring and summer of 2020, and many gained weight as a result of the reduced activity.
In a study published in the journal Obesity, 27.5% of respondents reported gaining weight during the pandemic, while 33.4% of those who are obese gained weight.
Although overall scores for healthy eating increased slightly because of less eating out and increased cooking, sedentary behaviors increased and physical activity declined, the study found.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise that these new normals of the pandemic have made it more difficult to keep up with healthy habits,” said Tiffany Krogstead, a dietician at Sanford Health.
During a time of decreased physical activity, a rise in stress levels and a lack of motivation, it can be easy to fall into a complacent pattern of doing nothing, Krogstead said.
Krogstead also added that those stressful times can lead to a variety of coping mechanisms, including food, which can make weight gain worse.
Turning the corner
Although businesses were not forced to close during the spring of 2020 in South Dakota, many gyms did. And many stayed away from those that were open out of an abundance of caution.
But moving your body and staying active can be done from your own living room. Krogstead said that getting a recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day does not need to be intense to still be effective.
“Even getting up and going for a walk, it doesn’t have to be much,” Krogstead said. “A mid-morning break and a mid-afternoon break and then maybe in the evening, just try to get some activity throughout the day.”
Sometimes it is not all that easy to find the motivation to keep up with normal routines at home.
For 23-year old Lucas Anderson of Sioux Falls, he despised every moment of working out from home because he said it didn’t mirror the intensity from his gym workouts.
“I did not enjoy it all, because it was hard to feel the same atmosphere as being at the gym,” he said. “I can definitely say I did not work out as much or as hard from home.”
Working out from home does not have to be an exact replica of your pre-COVID routine at the gym. Walking, running or biking can present a challenge and it is even possible to maintain during the winter months with the proper gear and preparation.
But for those who do not want to get out during the winter, purchasing inexpensive workout items online such as resistance bands and pull-up bars could help, according to tips from the Cleveland Clinic.
Cleveland Clinic notes that even utilizing items around the house or performing movements that do not require equipment helps, as well as using online home workout videos on YouTube.
Another important aspect in remaining healthy and to keep weight gain under control is to remember to monitor your daily food intake.
Krogstead recommends focusing on portion sizes, meal planning and avoiding sugary food to stick with your plan to achieve the goals set.
Snacking and overeating during the early stages of the pandemic was one of the hardest parts for Anderson.
“I ate whatever was around,” Anderson said. “I have been trying to make up for it by coming back to the gym a bit more often as well as eating different things, but you can only do as much as you can at times.”
Through all the uncertain times, everyone can choose to stay in their state of comfort or push the limit and turn their life to where they want it to be, Fisher said.
“This year is what I am going to make it to be,” Fisher said. “I was unhappy, and the only thing that was going to make a difference was me getting out there and doing it.”