Did Lockdown Make Us Fat?

Unlike the Swiss or Japanese, we British are not known for our health. After Malta, in fact, we’re the most obese nation in Europe. Fully 28% of us have a BMI greater than 30, which for a man of 5 foot 10, equates to a bodyweight of 96kg.

This should be a source of national embarrassment. And you’d assume the Government wouldn’t want to make it any worse. Which prompts the question, “What on earth did they expect lockdown would do?”

Back in March of 2020, we were told that we “must stay at home”. Only “one form of exercise a day” would be allowed under the new regime. Gyms and sports clubs were closed, and children’s play areas were cordoned off like crime scenes. (This was all in spite of emerging evidence that the chance of being infected outdoors was negligible.)

The full effects of lockdown on our waistlines are only now becoming apparent. And they they’re not pretty.

In a recent study, Feifei Bu and colleagues analysed data from the COVID-19 Social Study, a longitudinal survey of British adults that began on 21st March 2020. Note: the sample was not representative, so the researchers applied weights throughout their analysis.

During the initial phase of the study (up to the end of August), respondents were asked about their level of physical activity on a weekly basis. In particular, they were asked how much exercise they had done on “the last working day”. Results are shown in the chart below.

Although the series begin after the start of lockdown, the percentage of people reporting no physical activity increased substantially over the duration of the study – from around 23% to almost 40%. Oddly, the peak of inactivity was not reached until the late summer.

If the government’s messaging had not needlessly emphasised staying at home, it’s plausible this change could have been avoided. In a recent meta-analysis, the majority of studies reported “decreases in physical activity and increases in sedentary behaviours” during lockdown. (Hardly surprising, you might say. But it’s good to have hard data.)

So that’s calories out. What about calories in? Perhaps people compensated for lower levels of activity by eating less. It seems they didn’t.

“This Is Not the Country That I Grew Up In”: Australian Widow Arrested for Exercising Near Home

Following reports of the Australian army being deployed to ensure citizens are abiding by strict lockdown rules, an elderly Sydney resident has written to the Australian about being arrested for exercising near her home. Police officers interpreted this as an offence because the resident, a widow, was wearing a sign and walking in an area she rarely visited. Her letter, republished below, highlights the lengths to which the Australian authorities are going to snuff out the faintest flickers of protest.

I am a 78 year-old widow who chose to exercise in the Sydney central business district (CBD) on Saturday. I wore a sign saying: “Not happy, Gladys.” I was alone, I am fully vaccinated and I was wearing a mask.

I was stopped by police and asked what I was doing. I said I was exercising within 10km of my home. They told me I was not allowed to wear a sign while exercising. Both they and I were very respectful but I was arrested on the grounds that, as I did not normally exercise in the CBD, and was wearing a sign, I was protesting and not exercising.

This is not the country that I grew up in. And the really sad thing is that there will be so many who have been intimidated into cringing cowardice and who will just say of me: “Stupid old biddy, serves her right for not just being obedient.”

Mary M. Ancich, Birchgrove, Queensland

Australia Uses Helicopters and the Army to Enforce Lockdown Rules

The enforcement of lockdown rules in Australia has jumped to another level, with the army knocking on doors to check that people who have tested positive are self-isolating and helicopters blaring the message: “This is public health order – do not break rules – you will be found and fines issued.”

Police are also checking IDs to ensure that citizens are not outside their ‘exercise radius‘, and those not wearing face masks are being hit with $500 fines. MailOnline has more.

[On Sautrday], up to 1,300 police officers swarmed Sydney and set up a network of roadblocks in a massive show of force to avoid a repeat of last week’s violent anti-lockdown protest.

Some 250 fines, each worth $500, were issued across the city today, with one man arrested after travelling on trains outside his local Government area without a reasonable excuse.

It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison had launched a four-stage plan back to freedom but said 80% of adults would have to be vaccinated before the border can begin to open.

Sydney’s five million people are under a strict stay-at-home order because of a worrying surge of nearly 3,000 infections since the middle of June.

Authorities have this week outlined even tighter restrictions for some worst-affected suburbs, including mandatory testing and mask-wearing outdoors. 

From Monday, some 300 army personnel will help police go door to door to ensure people who have tested positive are isolating. 

New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told a news conference: “The sheer volume of increase over the last week, the level of compliance has gone from hundreds into thousands.”

The military personnel will not be armed and will be under police command, he said. …

[Australia] is faced with the spread of the much more infectious Indian variant that is proving able to overcome lockdown measures. Many highly vaccinated countries are now re-opening, but Australia is sticking to its ‘Zero Covid’ strategy while its vaccine drive lags behind the rest of the world.   

Sydney’s latest surge of cases has been traced back to an unmasked, unvaccinated airport driver who got infected last month. Since then, Australia’s biggest city has reported 13 deaths.

Worth reading in full.

Quarter of Older Adults in U.K. Less Fit and in More Pain After Lockdown

The physical and mental health of millions of older Brits has deteriorated over the past year of lockdowns, with more than a quarter saying they can no longer walk as far as they used to and almost a fifth feeling less confident leaving the house alone, according to new research.

The Charity Director of Age U.K. says that encouraging older people to remain in their homes, away from their families and from the wider community, has left “deep physical and emotional scars“. The Glasgow Times has the story.

People reported being less steady on their feet, struggling to manage the stairs and feeling less independent since the start of the crisis, according to polling for Age U.K.

Some 27% of adults aged 60 and over said they could no longer walk as far, while 25% said they were in more pain.

It also found evidence of accelerated cognitive decline, with more than a fifth (22%) of respondents saying they were finding it harder to remember things.

The charity fears the adverse effects may prove long-lasting and in some cases be irreversible, heaping pressure on NHS and social care services over the coming years.

Some 1,487 people aged 60 and over in the U.K. were polled by Kantar Polling between January 28th and February 11th, during the third national lockdown.

Extrapolated to the U.K. population, the findings suggest that millions of older people have seen their health decline following multiple lockdowns, social distancing measures, the loss of routines and support and limited access to services.

The charity also found that some people living with a mental health condition saw their symptoms exacerbated, while others were feeling depressed or anxious for the first time.

More than a third (36%) of respondents said they were feeling more anxious since the start of the pandemic, and 43% said they were less motivated to do the things they enjoy. …

People also gave more detail about their struggles through an online survey, which received 14,840 responses.

They spoke of crying daily due to loneliness, feeling like a prisoner and having had their confidence and purpose “sapped”.

Caroline Abrahams, Age U.K.’s Charity Director, said it may take some time for older people to rebuild their confidence, urging people to “keep supporting the older people in your lives”.

She said: “Our research found that earlier this year, immobility, deconditioning, loneliness, and an inability to grieve as normal, were leaving deep physical and emotional scars on a significant proportion of our older population.”

Worth reading in full.

£1,750 for This! “Prison-Like” Conditions Persist at Government-Approved Quarantine Hotels

It would appear that conditions at quarantine hotels – where travellers from “Red List” countries must self-isolate for 10 days, costing them £1,750 – have not improved since they were accused of being “prison-like” last month. Then, some guests complained of a deterioration in their mental and physical health while being forced to stay in these hotels. Now, many of the problems persist, as the MailOnline reports.

President Hotel, in Guilford Road, London, is described on its own website as the “perfect base” that allows guests to enjoy “all that London has to offer”.

But for some travellers who are spending their 10-day quarantine period there after arriving from Red List countries, it has been a “nightmare” as they complain of the “prison-like” conditions that are being enforced…

Garikayi Madzudzo made an official complaint regarding the quality of food to Imperial London Hotels, the company behind the three-star President Hotel.

He says he has been forced to order food and drink from other outlets as what was offered to him did not meet “acceptable food standards”…

Garikayi, along with several other travellers, shared pictures of the food they were provided by the hotel – including a small muffin, baked beans, lunchbox-sized carton of apple juice and a single hash brown for breakfast…

Guests have been left to question why they have security guards posted outside of their rooms for large parts of the day, and insist they are only allowed out for 15-minute exercise slots in the barricaded hotel garden…

[One] couple who have been staying in President allege the hotel forgot to bring them two meals on occasion – meaning they resorted to sharing one small dinner between the pair of them.

After just four days of quarantine, Thomas Cookson said the staff had managed to lose his suitcase – leaving him without clothes or toiletries…

A spokesman for Imperial London Hotels said: “At this stage we have no comment.”

Worth reading in full.

Physical Inactivity Doubles Risk of Covid Death, Study Suggests

US researchers have linked physical inactivity to an increased likelihood of Covid leading to hospitalisation and, ultimately, death. Their study suggests that the odds for death were 2.49 times greater for patients who were consistently inactive compared with patients who were consistently active. The Telegraph has the story.

Inactive coronavirus patients are more than twice as likely to die from the disease compared to people who exercise for the recommended 150 minutes a week, a new study suggests. 

Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, studied the medical records of nearly 50,000 people who were diagnosed with coronavirus between January and October last year.

They found that being consistently inactive more than doubled the odds of hospitalisation compared with being regularly active.

Patients who were consistently inactive were 73% more likely to be admitted to intensive care than fit patients. 

The odds for death were 2.49 times greater for patients who were consistently inactive compared with patients who were consistently active.

The researchers found that inactivity was the biggest risk factor for the disease after age, and having a history of organ transplant. 

Even patients who were inconsistently active had lower odds for severe Covid when compared to those who were consistently inactive, suggesting any amount of physical activity has benefit.

Dr Robert Sallis, a sports medicine physician at the medical centre that conducted this research, said that the findings should act as a “wake-up call”.

This is a wake-up call for the importance of healthy lifestyles and especially physical activity…

People who regularly exercise had the best chance of beating Covid, while people who were inactive did much worse.

Walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week at a moderate pace and that will give you a tremendous protective effect against Covid.

Around half of those studied had no underlying health conditions.

Worth reading in full.