Is the UK Government’s Plan to Combat Obesity with Exercise Enough?

On 25 July, five months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was discharged from the hospital after suffering from COVID-19. The PM’s first-hand encounter with the virus was rather rough, as a result of his "being  overweight." Consequently, the UK government released a press release which stated that "excess fat can affect the respiratory system and is likely to affect immune function," causing those who are overweight to develop worse effects of COVID-19 than their slimmer compatriots. Shortly after this announcement, the government launched the “tackling obesity” strategy, which aims to ‘support people to maintain a healthier body weight and encourage more physical activity.

However, this plan has a major shortfall. It only references endurance exercises as methods to lose weight. For many of us, endurance training won’t work, as we do not have the time. The PM’s plan seems to ignore the time-poor lifestyles filled with deadlines and social events, which most of us subscribe to. The plan does not discuss the different, more effective exercise options one could perform in order to lose weight, and therefore lacks proper guidance on how those struggling with excess weight can change their lifestyle for the better.

The plan only references walking and cycling as the methods to embolden the public to move more. But walking and cycling are not the most effective or time efficient ways to lose weight (Robinson, 2016). You would need to cycle or walk for a significantly long period of time to notice a difference. Most of us do not have time to exercise for the time required to lose enough weight to mitigate the potentially fatal effects of COVID-19. And COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. Public research suggests we will be living with the virus for up to five years.

Lack of time in the average working person’s daily schedule and routine is the reason for CAR.O.L’s creation. In a short eight minute and 40-second interval-focused ride, your body is working to reduce fat loss quicker than other forms of exercise, while reducing a number of health conditions that lead to the intensified complications obese coronavirus patients face.

Some studies show that the coronavirus attacks the immune system, while others have proven that obesity can impair (Heredia et. al, 2012) the immune system. But there is one thing they agree on; exercise will mitigate the threat of the coronavirus. In fact, exercise is possibly the best virus defense we have aside from social distancing, proper hygiene and wearing a face mask.

But, because the ‘tackling obesity’ strategy relies on a few basic and time-consuming exercises, it will not make the sustained difference on public health that we are hoping it will. Although implemented with good intention, the government’s plan is not sustainable, nor is it realistic. The factors driving weight gain and weight loss are unique to every person. A one-size-fits-all approach may not work for everyone. Targeted and tailored solutions for each person will work best.

 

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References Sourced in this Post:

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De Freitas, W. (2020) ‘Four reasons the UK government’s obesity strategy may not work for everyone’. The Conversation. Assessed: 31 July. Available at: https://theconversation.com/four-reasons-the-uk-governments-obesity-strategy-may-not-work-for-everyone-143695.html.

Robinson,  J. and Marsch, S. (2016) ‘Why walking (probably) isn't enough to make you lose weight’. Coach Nine. Assessed: 2016.

Heredia, F. et. al (2012) ‘Obesity, inflammation and the immune system’. Cambridge University Press. Pp.1. Assessed: 20 March.

Press Release (2020) ‘Three months on the sofa? Binge eating, alcohol and lack of exercise hit England’s mental health in lockdown’. Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity. Oxford University Press. Assessed: 27 July. Available at: https://www.research.ox.ac.uk/Article/2020-07-27-three-months-on-the-sofa-binge-eating-alcohol-and-lack-of-exercise-hit-england-s-mental-health-in-lockdown.html.

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Pinto, A. et. al (2017) ‘Spatial Planning for Health An evidence resource for planning and designing healthier places’. Public Health England. Assessed: June.