As the Covid-19 vaccination programme continues at pace, we can be hopeful of a more normal life in the near future.
The three national lockdowns and tier restrictions we have been following to prevent the spread of the virus have been a necessary inconvenience we have all had to follow.
However, one unfortunate and very significant side effect of needing to stay indoors had been the effect on our waistlines.
It is important we all stay fit and healthy, and during lockdown, there has been an opportunity for us to dust off that exercise equipment or to enjoy some fresh air as we undertake our one form of daily exercise.
The good news is that as the spring weather makes the days warmer and there are longer daylight hours, and as the Government’s staged lifting of restrictions comes into effect, we will all be able to enjoy more outdoor activities.
And while it is vital we continue following Government guidelines, I would urge you to take this opportunity to tackle your fitness issues because significantly, and this is my main point, it is widely known that Obesity is a risk factor for triggering serious complications from Covid 19.
The term ‘obese’ describes a person who's very overweight, with a lot of body fat.
It's a common problem in the UK that's estimated to affect around one in every four adults and around one in every five children aged 10 to 11.
The most widely used method to check if you're a healthy weight is body mass index (BMI).
BMI is a measure of whether you're a healthy weight for your height, and you can use the NHS BMI Healthy Weight Calculator to work out your score.
For most adults, a BMI of:
- 18.5 to 24.9 means you're a healthy weight.
- 25 to 29.9 means you're overweight.
- 30 to 39.9 means you're obese.
- 40 or above means you're severely obese.
BMI is not used to diagnose Obesity because people who are very muscular can have a high BMI without much fat, but for most people, BMI is a useful indication of whether they're a healthy weight.
A better measure of excess fat is waist size, which can be used as an additional measure in people who are overweight (with a BMI of 25 to 29.9) or moderately obese (with a BMI of 30 to 34.9).
Generally, men with a waist size of 94cm or more and women with a waist size of 80cm or more are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems.
It's very important to take steps to tackle Obesity because, as well as causing obvious physical changes, it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Coronary heart disease.
- Some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer.
The best way to treat Obesity is to eat a healthy reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly.
To do this, you should:
- eat a balanced calorie-controlled diet
- join a local weight loss group
- take up activities such as walking, jogging or cycling for 150 to 300 minutes (2.5 to 5 hours) a week
- eat slowly and avoid situations where you know you could be tempted to overeat.
All this is very easy to say but can be difficult at most times and very difficult in these testing times.
In some cases, patients may also benefit from receiving psychological support from a trained healthcare professional to help change the way you think about food and eating.
If lifestyle changes alone do not help you lose weight, a medicine called orlistat may be recommended.
If taken correctly, this medicine works by reducing the amount of fat you absorb during digestion.
Your GP will know whether orlistat is suitable for you.
However, I have to point out there's no quick fix for obesity.
Weight loss programmes take time and commitment, and work best when fully completed, but the healthcare professionals involved with your care should provide encouragement and advice about how to maintain the weight loss achieved.
Regularly monitoring your weight, setting realistic goals, and involving your friends and family with your attempts to lose weight can also help.
Remember that even losing what seems like a small amount of weight, such as 3 per cent or more of your original body weight, and maintaining this for life can significantly reduce your risk of developing obesity-related complications like diabetes and heart disease.
Speaking more generally, NHS UK have a wide range of resources available to support your wellbeing, including online exercise videos so you can stay active whilst at home.
Whether you’re into aerobic exercise, strength and resistance, pilates and yoga, need some mobility exercises or just want a quick 10 minutes, there’s a video available for you.
As a starting point, NHS Choices Wellbeing podcasts cover a range of topics such as coping with panic and anxiety, and there are thousands of podcasts available that cover everything you could ever want to listen to.
To summarise, I would stress that looking after your health and emotional wellbeing is important and is hopefully a regular part of your overall daily activities.
And more than ever in the light of the pandemic situation, I would ask everyone to ensure you are taking time to keep yourself well.
As I have emphasised, Obesity and poor physical condition have been linked to increased risk of Covid complications, so you have a real incentive to address this issue.