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South Africans now fatter due to lockdown - study

South Africans have revealed that lockdown regulations impacted their eating and exercise habits for the worse with some gaining more than 10kgs. File Picture: AP

South Africans have revealed that lockdown regulations impacted their eating and exercise habits for the worse with some gaining more than 10kgs. File Picture: AP

Published May 5, 2021

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Johannesburg - The lockdown the government first imposed more than a year ago to try to contain the spread of Covid-19 has had the unintended consequence of a plumper population, a survey released on Monday shows.

In the survey of almost 2 000 South African adults commissioned by pharmaceutical company Pharma Dynamics, 45% of respondents said lockdown regulations had impacted their eating and exercise habits for the worse, with 44% gaining 2-5 kg, 15% putting on 6-10 kg and 4% an extra 10kg or more.

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“Treats and calories are up, while exercise is down,” company spokeswoman Nicole Jennings said.

“Limited access to daily grocery shopping may have led to reduced consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in favour of highly processed food. In times of stress and uncertainty, people also find solace in comfort food.”

About 34% of respondents said their diet consisted mainly of takeaway and ready-made meals, while a further 30% said they ate what they could afford since their income had dropped.

The survey found that 42% of respondents were exercising less than before the pandemic, while 59% were on medication for a comorbidity such as heart disease, diabetes or hypertension.

Forty-three percent attributed their change in eating habits to stress and anxiety over what the future holds, while 42% said being confined to their homes also led to more snacking and impulsive eating and 28% simply ate out of boredom.

Participants’ body mass index, a measure of weight compared to height, indicated that 69% of respondents ranged between overweight and obese.

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“Female obesity rates align with data collected in 2019 by another health provider, but men seem to have really struggled with their weight during the pandemic,” said Jennings. “Based on our survey, obesity rates among men climbed by 40%.”

The lockdown has also expanded children’s waistlines, with interrupted schooling and extra-curricular activities leading to 43% more screen time.

Pharma Dynamics said it released the results of its poll in early May to coincide with “Measurement Month” – an initiative led by the International Society of Hypertension to raise awareness around the dangers associated with high blood pressure. |

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