A new study published by the CDC has revealed that children and teenagers gained almost doubled their weight during the pandemic. The study found that the biggest weight gain is among children that are prone to obesity.
The study examined 432,302 people from age 2 to 19 and found that the percentage of overweight children rose from 19% before the pandemic to 22% after. The CDC compared the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the study participants from before the pandemic from January 1, 2018, to February 29, 2020, to a period within the pandemic from March 1, 2020, to November 30, 2020.
The researchers concluded that teens and children of school age had gained weight at a “substantial and alarming” rate. They also found that the significant weight gain is due to less physical exercise, school closures, increased stress, disrupted routines, and proper nutrition among other factors.
The CDC report almost tallied with the conclusions obtained by researchers from the University of Michigan and Kaiser Permanente Southern California in another study. The only difference is that the CDC recruited a larger number of children and teenagers as participants for their study.
According to the CDC study, the expected yearly weight gain for severely obese children rose from 8.8 pounds before the COVID-19 pandemic to 14.6 pounds in August 2020. For moderately obese children, the weight before the pandemic rose from 6.5 pounds to 12 pounds after the pandemic. Healthy children with normal weight also increased from 3.4 pounds to 5.4 pounds.
The researchers noted that the results of the study showed that people are likely to gain weight during health emergencies that necessitate lockdown. They said the study also underscores the importance of healthy behaviors that can offset any potential weight gain during general health situations.
“These efforts could include screening by health care providers for BMI, food security, and social determinants of health, increased access to evidence-based pediatric weight management programs and food assistance resources, and state, community, and school resources to facilitate healthy eating, physical activity, and chronic disease prevention,” the researchers wrote.
Dr. Sandra Hassink, medical director of the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight, noted that social isolation, stress, and disruptions to physical activity cause an upward shift in the bodyweight of people around the world.
Health experts said the best way to address the pandemic weight gain is for people to engage in active outdoor activities. These include exercise and gaming. Another way is to eat more healthy foods and less junk food. These foods include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Experts also said children must watch less TV, since the prolonged time before the TV is sedentary and unhealthy.